Roundtable - Executive Session Status Awarded
Sponsored by: AAA Executive Program Committee
Of interest to: Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Anthropological archaeologists have produced a rich literature on the history of migration – from classic studies of pastoralism and interregional mobility (e.g., Chang and Koster 1986), to recent contributions that have explored the potentials of archaeological science to trace mobile life histories (e.g., Bentley 2006; Price, Burton, and Bentley 2002) and conceptual contributions that have compared experiences of movement in the ancient, early modern and modern worlds (Beaudry and Parno 2013; Burmeister et al. 2000; Leary 2014; Lelievre and Marshall 2015; Ur 2009). This literature has made it clear that, even if the number of migrants is greater today than it has ever been, “mobile subjects are not a product of our globalized, neoliberal, post-Fordist world” (Lelievre and Marshall 2015:435). Yet the field has yet to articulate a coherent project for the historical and comparative study of migration before the modern era. As a result, it is little surprise that social scientific scholarship on contemporary migration has tended to use the premodern as a foil for arguments about the present. Anthropological surveys of forced and undocumented migration have generally treated displacement as an acute condition of modernity, defining its origins accordingly at one or another arbitrary threshold – the emergence of the capitalist world-system, the sharpening of concepts of sovereignty in Enlightenment thought, or the later vesture of sovereignty in territorial nation-states (Colson 2003).
In this roundtable, we will explore the potentials and challenges of historical approaches to migration by sparking a conversation between scholars working on a wide range of historical and geographic contexts. Building on this year’s AAA theme, we will orient our conversation to questions about how migrants respond to economic and political transformations in the medium and long term. In what ways do earlier forms, flows, and discourses of migration differ from and/or prefigure experiences in the late 20th and early 21st centuries? How are these changes reflected in material forms that structure migrant movement and subjectivites, including borders, camps, dams, and routes? How have material configurations of citizenship in turn transformed migrant affects?