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Syllabus - Mobility and Mobilization

Claudio Sopranzetti

MOBILITY AND MOBILIZATION
Exploring the politics of mobility
The only form of resistance is to move.
-David Harvey, 2005: 42
First, there is the use of mobile to mean something that moves or is capable of movement. Second, there is the sense of mobile
as a mob, a rabble or an unruly crowd.
-John Urry, 2007: 8
To move is to be political
-Peter Adey, 2010: 137

Course description
Mobility constitutes and defines the origins, growth, and functioning of modernity. Traditional
historiography has marked the beginning of modern history with Colombo‟s arrival to the West Indies
and modernity as the glorious extension of global links, connections, and flows, fully endorsed in our
post-modern world. Rivers of ink have been used debating the novelty of these flows and their effects
on our lives, our states, or our wallets. Words such as globalization, trans-nationalism, flows, free
markets, networks, if originally developed as analytical tools, are widely present in daily life conversations
and news reports.
This class proposes to take a slightly different direction. Instead of analyzing the emergence,
growth, and novelty of physical and social mobility in the contemporary world, we will look at mobility,
defined here as a constellation of physical movement, economic circulation, and ability to cut across
social and legal structures, as a generative force and focus on the political dimensions of this genesis.
When mobility is often presented as the juggernaut of the ever-expanding march of capitalism
or modernity, we instead will look at the subversive potential of mobility as offering not only a
space for resistance but also tactics and technologies of mobilization.
In a world that is daily crisscrossed and preoccupied by flows of people, ideas, and objects, who
moves and who does not, how things and people move, and who is charge of this mobility becomes the
ultimate frontier of politics. Mobility and immobility, therefore, become not only political categories, but
also spaces for political actions. Airports blockades, pirates‟ interruption of oil shipping, farmers
stopping highways, illegal immigrants finding ingenious ways across a border that the state closed to
them, students marching in the streets, all of these acts of political mobilization engage directly with
mobility, challenging its rule, reinventing its paths, or severing them.
The course will be divided in two parts. In part one we will focus on mobility and flows,
exploring the emergence of what Johh Urry has called the “mobile paradigm” (Urry 2007). Readings
some of its main theorists, we will question the idea of free flows and delve into questions of inequality
and control. In part two, instead, we will focus on politics and on specific political movements,
exploring a variety of “mobile” subversive forces, from piracy to informal transportation providers, from
nomad populations to global activism opposing capital, and looking at their use of mobile tactics as
resistance. This is an anthropology class so the main skill that we will learn and develop during the
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Syllabus - Mobility and Mobilization

Claudio Sopranzetti

semester is an ability to apply theories to specific social facts and make theories emerge from them. Feel
free to bring outside material, personal experiences, examples and make ideas operatives.
On the overall, by the end of this course will be able to examine the critical conjuncture between
mobility and political mobilization, exploring some of the modalities with which people around the
world attempt to resist the flattening force of hi-pressure flows.
Course and assignment requirements
In this class we will focus more on deep and engaged reading and discussion than on covering
extensive bodies of literature. With this in mind, critical participation will be the central focus and
students are required to fully and carefully read and engage the texts listed below, every single week.
Close weekly readings, comparative textual work and detailed in-class discussions of those close readings
will be expected, and will form the backbone of this course. Keep in mind that we are here to develop
analytical and creative intellectual skills.
In addition to the readings, the students are expected to write bi-weekly response
papers, prepare at least one oral presentation in class, write a final paper abstract (with
bibliography) and one final paper.
The class presentation is on the week's readings, should be around 10-15 minutes and engage
directly the texts, to tie-in to previous readings, questions, and critiques. The presentation is not a
summary of the readings but a chance to present your personal take on it so bring examples, relate the
readings to something interesting to you (be it news, movies, shows, political movements, etc.), and offer
some final questions to open up conversation in class. (see presentation guidelines distributed on first
day of class) I will be available to meet every week to meet with the presenter to help prepare and discuss
the readings.
Two weeks instead of presentation the class will be divided in two groups, each with a separate
set of readings. The two groups will be asked to meet during the week and prepare a short collective
presentation. The class will then be a debate on the different positions presented in the readings in which
each group is expected to defend the opinions of the authors they have read.
The bi-weekly response papers must be no longer than 2-3 pages, and must mobilize the
readings and themes discussed leading up to the papers. A set of guiding questions will be handed out
before each set of response papers is due, but the response papers need not be limited to those guiding
questions. Response papers are due on Monday before the next class and they should be emailed to the
instructor by 5PM. (see response outlines distributed on first day of class)
The final paper (15 pages) must be a research paper in which you either discuss or re-think the
texts on the syllabus, engage in a mini-ethnographic project, or propose a research project which may be
the base for a future thesis project. Students may choose any subject of their own interest as long as they
also critically address the class readings within the body of the paper. Each student must meet
with me to discuss their final paper at least once before the paper abstract (around 400 words)
with annotated bibliography is due and once in the two weeks after the assignment. All written
assignments should follow the American Anthropological Association style guide.
This can be found at http://www.aaanet.org/publications/guidelines.cfm
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Syllabus - Mobility and Mobilization

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Students will be evaluated on the basis of a 100-point system:
Attendance and Participation
Oral Presentation
Response Papers
Abstract and Final Paper

25%
15%
20%
40%

There will be absolutely no extensions or incompletes allowed for the final paper without
medical reasons, and a note from both your residential tutor as well as from Harvard University Health
Services. All late final papers without a relevant excuse will be graded down 1/3 of a grade per day.
A note on plagiarism
Any use of another person‟s words, ideas either taken directly or indirectly and without citation
is cause for a plagiarism investigation. This includes material from the Internet. You are too smart to
plagiarize. If you have any questions on how to quote sources or materials properly, please consult A
Writer’s Reference, the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the Chicago Manual of Style, the AAA style
guide, or contact me.
Required course materials
The following text should be purchased for 98z, either online or in a local bookstore. They will
not be available at the COOP, mostly because they are much less expensive on Amazon etc. Please let
me know if you have any problems finding it. The rest of the course readings will be available on the
class website.
Graeber, David. 2009. Direct action : an ethnography. Edinburgh ; Oakland: AK Press.
Please note: Syllabus is subject to change. You will be informed of any changes by
e-mail and on the course website.
PART I: STUDYING MOBILITY
Week 1: Why mobility?
Clifford, James. 1997. Routes: travel and translation in the late twentieth century. Cambridge, Mass.Harvard
University Press, Chapter 7
Urry, John. 2007. Mobilities. Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity, Chapter 1 & 2
Week 2: Free Flows/ Arrested Flows
Group A: Free flows
Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization, Minneapolis, Minn.:
University of Minnesota Press, Chapter 2
Harvey, David. 1990. The condition of postmodernity: an enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Cambridge, MA:
Blackwell, Chapter 16 & 17
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Syllabus - Mobility and Mobilization

Claudio Sopranzetti

Group B: Arrested flows
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2005. Friction: an ethnography of global connection. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, Introduction, Chapter 2 & 6
Massey, Doreen. 1993. „Power-geometry and the progressive sense of space‟, in Bird, Jon. Mapping the
futures: local cultures, global change, Futures, new perspectives for cultural analysis. London ; New York:
Routledge.
Week 3: Controlling Movement
Foucault, Michel. 2007. Security, territory, population : lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-78. Basingstoke ;
New York
Scott, James. 1998. Seeing Like a State, Yale University Press, New Heaven, Chapter 2.
Caldeira, Teresa Pires do Rio. 1996. Fortified Enclaves: The New Urban Segregation. Public Culture
8:303-328.
Suggested: Benjamin, Walter. 1999. Arcade Project. Convolute E
Week 4: Unequal Mobilities
Group A: The world is flat
Ong, Aihwa. 1999. Flexible citizenship: the cultural logics of transnationality. Durham, N.C.: Duke University
Press, Introduction, chapter 4 & afterword
Cwerner, Saulo. 2006. Vertical Flight and urban mobilities: the promise and reality of helicopter travel.
Mobilities 1:191-215
Group B: The world is steep
Ferguson, James. 1999. Expectations of modernity: myths and meanings of urban life on the Zambian Copperbelt,
Berkeley: University of California Press, Chapter 1 & 7
Jenks, Mike. 2003. Above and below the line: Globalization and urban form in Bangkok. Annals of
Regional Science 37:547-557.
PART II: Movement as Mobilization
Week 5: Politics of Mobility
Adey, Peter. 2010. Mobility, Key ideas in geography. London ; New York: Routledge. Introduction and
Chapter 3
Cresswell, Tim. 2009. Toward a Politics of Mobility. Environment and Planning D 28: 17-31
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Syllabus - Mobility and Mobilization

Claudio Sopranzetti

Week 6: Transatlantic revolts
Linebaugh, Peter, and Marcus Buford Rediker. 2000. The many-headed hydra : sailors, slaves, commoners, and the
hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press. Selected Chapters
Thompson, E. P. 1966. The making of the English working class. 1st Vintage ed, Vintage Giant ; V-322. New
York: Vintage Books, Preface and chapter 1
Week 7: Nomadism and the War Machine
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1988. A thousand plateaus : capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Athlone
Press. Chapter 12
Atkinson, David. 2000. „Nomadic strategies and colonial governanace: domination and resistance in
Cyrenaica, 1923- 1932‟ in Sharp, Joanne P.. Entanglements of power : geographies of
domination/resistance, Critical geographies. London ; New York: Routledge.
Scott, James. 2010. The Art of Not Being Governed. Chapter 6
Week 8: Mobile mobilizers
Sopranzetti, Claudio. 2011. Burning Red Desires: Isan Migrants, Capitalist Bulimia, and Social Equality,
in review for Journal of Critical Asian Studies
Elyachar, Julia. 2010. Phatic labor, infrastractures, and the question of empowerment in Cairo. American
Ethnologist 37 (3):452-464.
Duno-Gottberg, Luis. 2009. Social Images of Anti-Apocalypse: Bikers and the Representation of Popular
Politics in Venezuela. A Contra Corriente 6 (2):144-172.
Week 9: Global Mobilizations
Mary Kaldor. “The Idea of Global Civil Society” International Affairs 79(3):583-593.
Notes From Nowhere, We Are Everywhere, pp. 19-29.
Hardt, Michael, Denis A. Canal, and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Paris: Exils, Intermezzo
Ho, Engseng. 2004. Empire through Diasporic Eyes: A View from the Other Boat. Society for Comparative
Studies of History and Society 46 (2):210-246.
Final Paper Abstract Due
Week 10: Migration as Social Movement
Reed-Danahay, Deborah and Brettell, Caroline. 2008. Citizenship, Political, Engagement, and Belonging:
Immigrants in Europe and the United States. Chapter 4 & 6
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Syllabus - Mobility and Mobilization

Claudio Sopranzetti

Diaz, Jesse and Rodriguez, Javier. 2007. “Undocumented in America.” New Left Review 47: 93-106.
Justin Akers. Chacon & Mike Davis, No One is Illegal, pp. 260-292.
William Walters. 2006. “No Border: Games With(out) Frontiers,” Social Justice, 33 (1):21-39.
Week 11: On Direct Actions
Graeber, David. 2009. Direct action: an ethnography. Edinburgh ; Oakland: AK Press, Selected chapters
Week 12: Global Struggles
Razsa, Maple & Velez, Pacho. 2006. Bastards of Utopia, Documentary
Razsa, Maple. 2007. Bastards of Utopia: An Ethnography of Radical Politics after Yugoslav Socialism,
Unpublished Dissertation, Harvard University, Selected chapters
Glassman, Jim. 2001. From Seattle (and Udon) to Bangkok: the scales of resistance to corporate
globalization. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19:513-533.

Final Paper Is Due

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