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Event Details

Mobilisation and Mobility in the Middle East

Start date : 29 August 2023 09:00
Date de fin : 1 September 2023 17:00
Where : London
Hosted by : Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) Annual Conference

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Organised by Silvia Hassouna and Peter Merriman (Aberystwyth University).

In this call we invite proposals for papers which explore the social, cultural and political dimensions of mobility in the Middle East. Mobility practices and infrastructures have been closely intertwined with the politics of this diverse region for centuries, whether in practices of colonialism, nation-state formation, military occupation, forced displacement, migration, or resource extraction. Recent work has highlighted the centrality of movements (and their regulation) in both challenging and reinforcing state actions in a variety of spaces. This includes the construction, control and maintenance of national and global infrastructures, the role of everyday mobilities in particular places, contemporary and historic migrations of people (from forced displacements to strategic invasions), practices of mobility associated with leisure and tourism, construction of walls and boundaries to restrict movements, and the colonisation, invasion or attack of territories under the premise of maintaining peace and order.

This session aims to reflect on how different kinds of political mobilisation and action become entangled with embodied movements and mobilities amidst political crises and restrictions to mobility. We believe that a critical engagement with different regimes of mobility and immobility in the Middle East can reveal important insights into the production of unjust and uneven geographies and mobilities. Examples might include everyday, intimate and ordinary aspects of mobilisation and mobility as well as major events (such as the Gulf and Iraq wars of the 1990s and 2000s, Arab Spring uprisings, the discovery of oil in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the early- and mid-20th century) and prominent infrastructures such as the Suez Canal and the Israeli Separation Wall. We are particularly interested in how postcolonial, feminist and indigenous perspectives (among others) can speak to Western geopolitical and Orientalist imaginaries that underpin territorial violence and the control of mobilities.

We welcome conceptual and/or empirical contributions that explore different aspects of mobilisation, mobility, immobility and the regulation and experience of movement in the Middle East in different time periods. Potential topics might include, but are not limited, to:

Different mobility practices, modes and infrastructures, and how they are enabled, practised and controlled in the Middle East, from walking and driving, to animal transport, flying and movements by boat and ship.
How different mobility practices are categorised and become meaningful, whether being associated with political or military threats, personal and political freedoms, or memorable life-events.
Issues of mobility justice and injustice, equity and inequity, inclusion and exclusion, rights and responsibilities, and access to public spaces and commons.
Creative cultural practices and the politics of movement (e.g. looking at the role of writers, film-makers or artists in making creative interventions relating to mobile practices).
The distinctive discourses, imaginations and ontologies of mobility which are entangled with the cultural and political histories of the region.
Studies of the role of embodied movement practices and mobilities in political mobilisations, examining the different meanings of the phrase ‘political movements’.
Methodological experiments and challenges when researching mobility and movement in the region.
Effects of the climate crisis, urban pollution and congestion in the region, and the need to envision and advance alternative mobility futures. 

We are intending the session to be in-person. We may apply for hybrid session status if the majority of contributors should not be able to attend in person. Please indicate your preference when submitting your proposal. Please send your title, abstract (max. 300 words) or expression of interest, and full contact details to Silvia Hassouna ( by 10th March 2023 (midnight). We will notify you about the selected papers by 15th March 2023.

We look forward to hearing from you!


For the Mobile Lives Forum, mobility is understood as the process of how individuals travel across distances in order to deploy through time and space the activities that make up their lifestyles. These travel practices are embedded in socio-technical systems, produced by transport and communication industries and techniques, and by normative discourses on these practices, with considerable social, environmental and spatial impacts.

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Movement is the crossing of space by people, objects, capital, ideas and other information. It is either oriented, and therefore occurs between an origin and one or more destinations, or it is more akin to the idea of simply wandering, with no real origin or destination.

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