Guest lecture: Methodologies of immobility: tracing migrants’ journeys across Libya to Europe



THURSDAY 7 MARCH 2019 14.30 – 16u (Room Paddenhoek 1.2. Campus Aula)


MARTHE ACHTNICH (University of Oxford):


“Methodologies of immobility: tracing migrants’ journeys across Libya to Europe”


A recent focus on mobility and migration in Anthropology has also rekindled interest in multi-sited ethnographic methods. In this talk, drawing on multi-sited fieldwork tracing sub-Saharan migrants’ unauthorized journeys across the Sahara desert and Libya by boat to Malta, I will examine some of the methodological implications of this turn to mobility. I will highlight how research on migrants’ lived mobility experiences across a variety of spaces of immobility - detention centres, smuggling houses and private accommodation - shaped by different state and criminal actors, can offer new perspectives on methodological engagements with mobility. Using migrants’ narratives as well as participant observation to trace mobilities across these different sites and legal frameworks not only pictures a wider mobility economy, but shows how these are shaped by forms of immobility as well. This challenges ideas of linear movement and of static and typologized migrant categories such as positing people as either legal or illegal, migrant or refugee. In conclusion, I will reflect upon the challenges and opportunities involved in conducting multi-sited fieldwork in a context of fragmented state authority like Libya.


Marthe Achtnich is a Fellow by Examination in Anthropology at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. She is an anthropologist working on mobility, migration and informal economies with a focus on unauthorized migrants’ journeys from sub-Saharan Africa via Libya to Europe. Her current research project (Mobility Economies) builds on her doctoral work on Mobility in Crisis (DPhil, University of Oxford, 2017), an ethnography of migrants’ mobilities through the Sahara desert, detention centres and smuggling houses in Libya, across the Mediterranean sea by boat to Malta, and onwards through Europe. Marthe held a Wiener-Anspach Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Laboratoire d’anthropologie des mondes contemporains (LAMC) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2017-2018), and was awarded a small research grant by the Society for Libyan Studies in 2017.


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