Academic journal article Migration Letters

The Shadows of Enlargement: Theorising Mobility and Inequality in a Changing Europe

Academic journal article Migration Letters

The Shadows of Enlargement: Theorising Mobility and Inequality in a Changing Europe

Article excerpt


This introductory article of the special issue is based on the criticism of the sedentarist lens used in migration studies on social inequalities. It is organised around two questions: In what ways have forms of inequality and patterns of migration in the enlarged Europe been changed, and how should the nexus between migration and social inequality be rethought after the 'mobility turn' in the social sciences? First, the article proposes that the mobility turn and transnational sociology be combined to approach varieties of geographic mobility in the current Europe and that inequality analysis be conceptualised from a 'mobile perspective', meaning that forms of mobility and patterns of inequality be considered as mutually reinforcing. Second, Europe is considered as a fragmented and multi-sited societal context, which is co-produced by current patterns of mobility. The article discusses recent societal shifts such as supranationalisation and the end of socialism in the Eastern part of Europe (among many others) and identifies the concept of assemblage as a useful heuristic tool both for migration studies and European studies. Third, the final part illustrates how the contributions collected in this special issue address the challenges of the sedentarist lens and provide conceptual solutions to the analytical problems in question.

Keywords: Migration; mobility; social inequalities; Europe; enlargement; mobility turn


In the past few years, experience of subordination and exploitation in the 'West' has become one of the most popular topics in fiction and non-fiction writings produced in the new EU member states and the EU borderland countries. One such piece of writing, Allergy to Magic Mushrooms, is an autobiography by a highly skilled Estonian lawyer who has been working in Ireland for several years. At one point in the book, he writes, "Every day I toiled at a mushroom farm. While chopping the mushrooms my fingers developed an unbelievable speed..." (Ivanov-Tsarevokokshaiskii, 2012: 3, transi, by the authors)Skype-Mama (Brunner et al., 2013), an essay collection that gives a detailed account of the experiences of distant motherhood and of the pressure on female Ukrainian migrants in the EU to accept the 'dirty' jobs.

These examples hint at the fact that migration and mobility since the enlargement of the EU have been accompanied by the emergence of new forms of inequality. These examples not only contradict the official rhetoric, according to which EU-internal mobility contributes to a wealthier and more prosperous Europe (see Kahanec and Zimmermann, 2009), they also indicate that there is a fundamental difference between the experiences of EU citizens and those of non-EU citizens because the latter group faces considerably greater restrictions and limitations to mobility than the former (Bigo, 2009; Tsoukala, 2005). The purpose of this special issue is to provide a new perspective - a mobile perspective, as we would like to call it - on the nexus between migration/mobility and the formation of social inequalities in the context of the post-enlargement Europe.1 This issue consists of five contributions, all of which are concerned with the question of how new patterns of migration and mobility that have emerged since the EU enlargement are interlinked with the transformation of social inequalities. To address this question, social inequalities are defined as hierarchies of wealth, power and knowledge which result in unequally distributed life chances and life opportunities (Tilly, 2000). This special issue thus addresses migration and mobility both within the enlarged European Union and from the non-EU to the EU countries. The contributions do not reduce 'Europe' to the 'EU', but take into consideration that the process of EU enlargement changes the image of Europe, the regulations of migration and the mobility practices of mobile individuals. The contributions focus on two sets of questions. …

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