Online Workshop/CfP - Infrastructures and (Im)mobile Lives: Interruptions, Failures, and Repairs, 21-22 February 2022

Publish Date: Jun 14, 2021

Deadline: Aug 31, 2021

Event Dates: from Feb 21, 2022 12:00 to Feb 22, 2022 12:00

This proposed workshop explores the relationship between migration, infrastructures, and (im)mobilities as it relates to infrastructural breakdown and transformation. The workshop is concerned with the diverse interruptions, failures, and repairs that are involved in the ongoing production of mobility systems and flows. What happens when the infrastructures that maintain migration regimes and mobility flows are disrupted? How do interruptions and glitches in various infrastructures, in turn, re-shape existing or create new practices and meanings of mobility and immobility? How might thinking about failures and repairs help (re)examine and theorise existing mobility infrastructures that organise and reproduce migration patterns, processes, and experiences?

Scholarship on migration infrastructures has focused on an array of actors and systems that enable, mediate, channel, and manage mobilities across borders (Xiang and Lindquist, 2014; Lin et al., 2017; Shrestha and Yeoh, 2018). Scholars have examined infrastructures of various kinds that include international labour migration, education mobility industry, marriage brokerage, urban real estate, and more. Analyses have covered the key components of state regulations, commercial intermediaries, socio-technological platforms, and humanitarian as well as migrant social networks. The focus of these studies has largely been on the ways in which infrastructures underpin and support existing mobility regimes and circuits alongside enduring issues of class, gender, race and nationalism. Yet, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these migration infrastructures such as state policies aimed at containing the virus spread have been re-organised to prevent and to slow down mobilities rather than to facilitate them. Some intermediaries such as commercial brokers have faced greater difficulty in enabling migrant flows due to tightened border controls. Physical infrastructures that send, host, transfer, and repatriate different migrants across borders, ranging from university campuses to ventures like the Belt and Road Initiative’s inter-state projects, have also been immobilised in various ways. Insofar that migration infrastructures mediate (im)mobilities, their capacity to function and to exist is closely entwined with human movements. Even before the present pandemic, multiple phenomena such as environmental disasters and geopolitical turmoil have created conditions of compulsion vis-a-vis freedom that articulate (im)mobilities as part of the international migration regime, and where certain migrant bodies are produced as less mobile as compared to some who move with relative ease. Therefore, migration infrastructures play an important role in constituting the power geometries of migration in both sending and returning as well as past and present contexts, whereby diverse infrastructural forms and processes enhance the mobilities of some even as they also intensify the immobilities of others.

If a focus on migration infrastructures encourages attentiveness to systems of maintenance and reproduction, then this must be accompanied by a close examination on infrastructural breakdown and its transformative potential. As such, this workshop aims to explore the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of migration infrastructures, while at the same time pay attention to those inventions, experiments, and potential overhauls that emerge to rebuild them. In particular, the workshop is interested in multiple kinds of interruptions and failures and their associated repair-works within diverse migration regimes and circuits, including those related to labour, family, education, geopolitical, and environmental migrations, in both historical and contemporary contexts of global Asia. Similarly, the workshop is also keen to explore the ways in which different material, imagined, and digital infrastructures intersect with migration and mobility. 

The workshop invites empirically informed papers that engage with theoretical and/or methodological innovation to examine a range of issues organised around the interrelated themes of interruption, failure, and repair.

  1. Interruption: How are the infrastructures that support migration and mobility regimes interrupted by various events, processes, and practices? What structures, discourses, norms, and routines do they interrupt, and to what extent are they challenged?
  1. Failure: What kinds of failure happen to migration infrastructures, and how do they re-shape existing migration processes and patterns? How are mobilities and immobilities configured in and through failure within infrastructures of migration and beyond (e.g. education, care, urban, and more)?
  1. Repair: How do different actors and institutions respond to infrastructural breakdown and glitches, and what projects of restoration do they engage with to reinstate mobilities? How else might we approach the repair of infrastructural breakdown in ways that help rebuild migration and mobility systems in a more ethical manner?


Prof Xiang Biao
Director of Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words maximum) and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission. Please use the paper proposal form and send it in doc/docx format to Dr Yi’En Cheng at by 31 August 2021.

Please also include a statement confirming that your paper has not been published previously, it is not committed elsewhere, and that you are willing to revise your paper for potential inclusion in a special issue submission (in collaboration with the workshop organisers and other participants).

Successful applicants will be notified by end of September 2021. Panel presenters will be required to submit drafts of papers (4,000-6,000) words by 15 January 2022. These drafts will be circulated to fellow panelists and organisers in advance. Drafts need not be fully polished. Indeed, we expect that presenters will be open to feedback from fellow participants.


Dr Yi’En Cheng
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Dr Chand Somaiah
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Dr Exequiel Cabanda
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Prof Brenda Yeoh
Asia Research Institute, and Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

For more information click "LINK TO ORIGINAL" below.

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