Due March 1 | CALL FOR PAPERS Precarious Mobilities

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Precarious Mobilities

Guest Editors:

Paula J. Massood and Pamela Robertson Wojcik


Mobility is a pliant term: its meanings vary dramatically, depending upon how one defines place, stability, and fixity. Media historians of the early 20th century often associate mobility with modernist tropes, such as train travel, tourism, or the aimless strolling of the flaneur/flaneuse. Media studies of the early 21st century often associate mobility with the promise of digital technologies, such as the disembodied jouissance of cyberspace or virtual travel. At their core, these forms of mobility presume freedom of movement: geographically, economically, personally (via definition and redefinition). In opposition to the association between freedom and mobility as enriching are those more constrained modes of mobility, often involuntary or forced—refugees, exiles, vagabonds, nomads, gypsies, the displaced, the relocated/colonized, and/or the trafficked. For the former, where mobility is a choice, fixity often seems rooted, static, and bounded. For the latter, fixity becomes an ideal or a privilege, seen as grounding and secure: mobility, in this sense, is aligned with rootlessness and placelessness.


Of course, neither the freedom to be mobile nor the ability to be rooted is ever accorded equally. Many forms of mobility stem from privilege; for example, when movement is a matter of choice. Other forms stem from precarity and powerlessness, as when movement is forced (either physically or psychically) through political, economic, or social upheaval. And there are forms of undesirable rootedness that occur when mobility is denied by, for example, economics, the police state (imprisonment), or segregation/displacement based on gender, race, ethnicity, generation, ability, etc. Indeed, we can think of mobility as defined not only in terms of freedom vs. rootlessness but also as privilege vs. precarity.


This special issue of Feminist Media Histories seeks proposals on feminist, intersectional approaches to precarious mobilities. We are interested in papers that not only consider representations of itineracy, but that also consider mobility and precarity in terms of women’s, queer and trans media makers’ labor. We seek papers that address this topic in different media, in different historical periods, and different global contexts. Along with traditional scholarly essays, we are open to proposals for videographic criticism, photo essays, translations, and other critical formats.


Proposals might consider the following questions: What kinds of mobility are available to whom? What are genres of precarity and when do they occur? What enables and what delimits digital or virtual mobility? How and when does mobility entail failure, and when is it a successful detour or swerve? What generational shifts have there been in the kinds of mobility available, or in what counts as itineracy? How do the stakes of gendered, raced, and/or queer movement through space change if the geography is urban, suburban, or rural? When is domestic, natural or colonized space not aligned with rootedness but with precarity or placelessness? How might employment and mobility be linked either literally or figuratively? What happens when placelessness does not lead to mobility but instead leads to endangerment, instability, or even petrification?


Topics might include:

  • Aesthetics of mobility and placelessness
  • Migration of people and/or media technologies and platforms
  • Implications of (home)land for indigenous and diasporic peoples
  • Precarity of the planet, eco-systems, species-relations; resource extraction and effects on mobility/immobility
  • Figures such as exiles, refugees, nomads, hitchhikers, vagabonds, the tramp, the fallen woman, the prostitute, the homeless, and others
  • Auteurs of precarity and mobility, such as Kelly Reichardt, Tsai Ming-Liang, etc.
  • Celebrities associated with mobility, precarity such as Malala Yousafzai, Josephine Baker, etc.
  • Guerilla filmmaking/media making
  • Rejections of home or ejections from home
  • Abolition, escape or emancipation/incarceration
  • Military deployments or leaves
  • Dystopic imaginings of placelessness
  • Narratives of squatting, crashing, couch surfing, off-grid living
  • Gendered and racialized mobility and generational differences

Contributions can be sent to guest editors either Paula J. Massood (filmdoctor1@gmail.com) or Pamela Robertson Wojcik (pamela.wojcik.5@nd.edu).

Proposals should be roughly 300 words, should include a short bio, and should be submitted no later than March 1, 2020 to either of the email addresses above.

Article drafts will be due by August 1, 2020 and will then be sent out for anonymous peer review.