Globalisation today has historical roots and harbours future rhizomes; it enables and nurtures geographical and social mobility of people who cross frontiers in pursuit of better lives, ideas and art forms which circulate instantaneously and transform our thinking about our linguistic, religious, professional or national identities. The political economy of mobility is intricately linked to the construction, defence or questioning of boundaries – be they cultural, national or individual, while the poetics of mobility navigate boundaries so as to stretch them or to show stillness in mobility.
Our focus on the global flow of individuals, ideas and images seeks to explain how globalised nation-states deal with the constant encounters between global cosmopolitans, between citizens and migrants, between long-term neighbours, and how this flow transforms geographic and cultural boundaries and ideas of belonging and home. The mobilities of people, goods, ideas and desires have, we argue, a crucial impact on what we now perceive as true or false, right or wrong, modern or non-modern, desirable or unacceptable in our most basic everyday experiences and, therefore, in the most sophisticated scientific endeavours.
Our decentered focus on mobilities also implies a critique of the linear narrative of modernization, in which ‘the South’, ‘the Orient’, the ‘Third World’ have been depicted as left behind, with historical change assumed to be the late arrival of modernity. We aim to re-locate and mobilise discussions on modernity, using terms such as ‘South’, ‘Orient’, ‘West’ and ‘North’ to denote sets of relations rather than geographical locations. Rather than focusing on difference, we then incorporate the North/West as one of many sites and cultures in a world of plurality.