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This introductory chapter provides an overview of the main theoretical terms of reference used in the book, including discussion of the ‘mobility turn’ and the accompanying ‘new mobilities paradigm’, developed to help explain multiplication in the forms and popularity of various forms of mobility, or mobilities, during the years prior to the pandemic. This is followed by an outline of the main characteristics of the immobility turn that accompanied the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the dramatic falls in international air passenger numbers, a potentially huge loss of earnings from tourism and the generation of uncertainty for many migrants. The authors also provide contextual information on the impact of immobility on Portugal – the country in which they conducted their empirical research – including relevant statistics on tourism, student mobility and labour migration.
Chapter 3 looks at tourism before the COVID-19 pandemic and during its first two years, using evidence from stakeholders in the Portuguese tourism industry that focuses on recent issues alongside more long-standing challenges relating to sustainability. To contextualize these developments, the authors adapt two pre-existing theoretical ideas. The first, overtourism, relates to high levels of expansion in international tourism in the pre-pandemic era, while the second, undertourism, refers to problems arising from low or declining visitor numbers. Through mobilization of these ideas, the authors are able to locate the findings of their research in recognizable conceptual frameworks and, from these vantage points, argue that many of the issues that became visible during the pandemic are in fact the product of pre-existing problems, including an apparent lack of regulation in the expansion of international tourism.
This book looks at the changes that have taken place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, following the lockdown of societies and imposition of border controls in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
Using empirical evidence from Portugal, a geopolitically important point of intersection within Europe and between Global South and Global North, the book examines consequences of the apparent end of mobility expansionism, developing a refreshing theoretical concept of ‘immobility turn.’
Focusing on the tourist industry, universities hosting international students and migration agencies, the book offers invaluable insights about how the pandemic affected institutions and individuals’ lives, informing policy-making processes on a global level.
The international circulation of higher education students expanded in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that during the pandemic universities faced challenges in maintaining the integrity of international study programmes and supporting large numbers of fee-paying student migrants. In this chapter, focusing on the Portuguese context, the authors note that programmes like Erasmus were also potentially compromised by the lack of opportunities to engage in convivial activities during the successive lockdowns, limiting the capacity to generate intercultural competencies. However, students who had migrated for the duration of a degree course benefited from more settled status, helping to explain why student migration increased in Portugal at a time when other forms of student mobility declined. Other issues include the challenge of moving learning online, and the future prospects for virtual mobility.
Chapter 5 looks at international labour migration during the pandemic, focusing on the case study of seasonal agribusiness workers in Portugal. Labour migration is a topic that has considerable social, political and economic gravitas in many countries, including Portugal. As an important form of mobility, some forms of labour migration, including international and internal circulation, were able to continue during the height of the pandemic. Also apparent were distinct urban and rural dynamics, especially movement from the former to the latter. Evidence from policy makers and stakeholders in the migration field in Portugal illustrates a clash of values and brings to light some of the practical problems of maintaining open labour migration pathways during a pandemic. This includes the risk of generating new conflicts and racist sentiments due to associations being made between internal migration and the spread of COVID-19 and due to migrant workers’ precarious living conditions becoming more visible.
The final chapter of this book returns to debates about the meaning of mobility and the ramifications of temporary suspensions of the freedom to move during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. This disruption created imaginative challenges, making people think more critically about non-essential mobility, as well as practical problems, particularly in industries that had to cope with prolonged disruptions and where there was also a need to balance public safety concerns with economic imperatives. The authors interpret these debates as indicative of a change in our culture of mobility, once perceived as benign or even beneficial, now seen as something to be consumed more selectively and perhaps sustainably. The difficulties in restarting full-scale mobility also lead the authors to ponder the viability of alternate modes of travel, including the prospects for an expansion of the practice of digital nomadism.
In Chapter 2 the authors elaborate at a theoretical level on the immobility turn that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. Significantly, they note that the immobility turn is not just a product of the pandemic, but also a reflection of the limitations of the preceding period of expansion and multiplication of mobilities, not least of which is the impact of expanded levels of international travel on the environment. Also evident are ethical complications arising from a desire to exercise an entitlement to unrestricted international travel at times when the freedom to circulate has been temporarily suspended by measures aimed at protecting public health. This debate is discussed in terms of the sociological idea of moral economy, noting the difficulty of maintaining a counter-hegemonic discourse on free movement.
The chapter investigates how the historical intertwinement between colonialism, corporate interests and policing is mirrored in the current ways that Europe attempts to control migration from West Africa. It first considers the role of public-private relationships and surveillance during and in the aftermath of French colonization. Building on this, it goes on to explore the case of Civipol, an agency specializing in the capacity-building of African countries’ internal security co-owned by the French state and major European security companies, which has gained a prominent role as a main implementing partner of EU funds to control migration. Looking especially at Civipol’s engagement in the building of national civil registries, it is argued that colonial continuities can be traced in present mobility policing, and that corporate interests co-shape the securitization of Europe’s relations with Africa.
This chapter considers the themes of expulsion and colonization within the Ottoman immigration story. The Ottoman Empire does not figure prominently in histories of empire and colonization, yet it offers a specific context to pose questions about forced migrants as tools in empire-building. The empire’s tenuous sovereignty in the 19th and early 20th centuries influenced patterns of inclusion and exclusion and affected how the state used migrants in its state-building efforts over time. The chapter concludes by considering what, if anything, is relevant in the Ottoman colonization story to Turkey’s treatment of Syrian refugees in the 21st century. In keeping with the insights of this volume, the chapter suggests that historicizing the present reveals patterns of exclusion, assimilation, and expulsion across regimes and through time.
In this concluding chapter we draw together insights from the whole collection. We identify seven cross cutting themes across the chapters: the enduring power of ideas of race and racial hierarchy in responses to forced migration; postcolonial states managing mobile populations in their own interests; states seeking to spatially organize populations along modern/colonial lines; the role of private companies and non-state actors; the role of technologies for surveillance, categorization, and control; and finally the fraught politics of sanctuary and hospitality. Drawing on these contributions as well as taking a step back, our final words sketch out a research agenda to further explore what postcolonial perspectives can bring to forced migration and refugee scholarship, an agenda that seeks to consolidate the emerging literature on postcolonial approaches to forced migration so that its insights come to inform critical migration studies more broadly.