Mobility capital: Somali migrants’ trajectories of (im)mobilities and the negotiation of social inequalities across borders
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Based on a case study of Somali migrants who have been living in Europe for at least a decade, this paper challenges the view that post-migration life is sedentary and pleads for a dialogue between mobility studies and migration studies. It explores the various cross-border mobility practices these migrants may undertake from their country of residence and how they can be transformed into social and economic advantages. “Mobility capital” consists of the ability to engage in cross-border mobility practices at particular times but also to remain immobile by choice. Social actors with high levels of mobility capital are in a position to articulate and benefit from local anchorage and mobility practices simultaneously and to control when and how they want to be on the move. There are two facets of mobility capital: the accumulation of past experiences of crossing borders; and the potential for future movements, or the unequally shared ability to be mobile again when it appears worthwhile to be so. The diachronic focus of the study shows that biographies evolve in response to external constraints and opportunities. Furthermore, migrants’ control over their (im)mobility is shaped by their transnational social positions in their place of residence, but also in other places, including their place of origin. I argue that mobility capital is a neglected dimension of migrants’ strategies to negotiate multiple and contradictory social positions in a transnational social field.
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