Infrastructural battles: navigating and negotiating migration trajectories between worlding and ruination

Authors: Karel Arnaut*, KU Leuven
Topics: Migration, Urban Geography, Resources
Keywords: infrastructures, migration, precarity, world-building, conflicts
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper engages the recent literature on migration, urbanity and (social) infrastructures to further strengthen the concept of ‘arrival infrastructures’. Through its combined examination of directionality, temporality and subjectivity, an arrival infrastructural approach discerns complex, multi-actor and multi-species operations of identification and categorisation, of spatial channelling and social sorting, of precarisation and social mobility, of acceleration, deceleration and blockage. Our ethnographic fieldwork in many different locations in and outside the capital city of Belgium among Bulgarian and Romanian newcomers, North-African seasonal workers, and so-called ‘transit migrants’ foregrounds the gaps and interstices in migrants’ trajectories. In and around these gaps, we observe and analyse the infrastructural battles taking place. These consist of the practices and discourses of (a) often precarious world-building or informal and sometimes contested or criminalised social infrastructuring by migrants, in collaboration with preceding cohorts or emerging networks of migrants and/or welcoming ‘natives’ in specific localities, and (b) interventions by state actors (police, tax and employment services) and in some specific cases (but not in the ones we will be analysing) by civil society ‘anti-migrant’ activists and vigilantes. These physical/material, legal, administrative or discursive interventions consist in ruining, breaking up or disrupting the emerging (social) infrastructuring. From within the interstices constituted by the infrastructural battles we try to understand how migrants navigate uncertain terrains of social mobility and negotiate emerging subjectivations in times of ongoing discrimination and racialisation.

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login