38 / 2013
Špela Kalčić, Marko Juntunen, Nataša Rogelja

Marginal Mobility: A Heuristic Tool for Comparative Analysis of Contemporary Mobilities


This article’s mission is twofold. First, it serves as introduction to the present thematic issue, which includes six different case studies discussing contemporary mobile lives across the globe. Second, it presents the concept of marginal mobility, which unifies the thematic issue. The marginal mobilities concept is understood as a heuristic tool for the comparative study of contemporary mobilities. Today various mobile subjects construct their mobile lives in highly comparable manner, as well as share very similar experiences. We argue that what we have at hand are new kinds of researchable entities that challenge the widely shared academic consensus for drawing clear analytical and conceptual bounda- ries between the mobile subjects from the Global North and South. As the contemporary analytical language of migration and mobility studies lacks an appropriate term for such mobile lifestyles, we prefer to conceptualise them as marginal mobilities. According to our understanding, these mobilities can be compared by the following five unifying characteristics: they are highly mobile (1), not entirely forced nor voluntary lifestyles (2) that occur along loosely defined trajectories (3). They generally lack politicized public spheres (4) and they are marked by the sentiments of marginality, liminality and con- stant negotiation against the sedentary norm of the nation state (5). Comparing different ethnographic cases is therefore important and can offer an opportunity to delve deeper into the cultural logic of contemporary mobile lifestyles.

KEYWORDS: marginal mobility, globalization, emerging mobile lifestyles, marginality, comparative study