The purpose of this workshop is to draw on emerging knowledge about mobilities, emplacement, displacement and belonging within the social sciences to create dialog between academics, practitioners and policy makers that will extend this knowledge and make it accessible for policy-oriented research and development. As one of the world’s most mobile nations, Australia offers an important arena for this work.


Contribution to knowledge. An evaluation of the analytical usefulness of a life-course approach to mobility, emplacement, displacement and the very human desire to belong. In focusing on various stages of the life course, the workshop will investigate a range of mobile persons including new migrants, the long-settled (but still perhaps mobile), expatriates, fly-in-fly-out workers, international students and refugees. The workshop on mobilities across the life-course will enable research-informed and policy-oriented exploration of relevant policy implications, while acknowledging cross-cutting concerns with social class, gender, ethnicities, and sexualities. It will shed fresh theoretical light on the burgeoning ‘mobility’ literature, holding both international and intra-national migration and mobility together under the same spotlight, examining patterns across the spatial and conceptual range occupied by what are often divergent research programmes. It also considers a developing interest in “middling mobilities”, those of the middle and aspirational classes (Conradson & Latham 2005; Scott 2006; Favell, Felblum & Smith 2006; Miller 2010; Ryan & Mulholland 2013; Baldassar & Wilding 2013), bringing this together with research into more “marginalised mobilities” (Fozdar and Hartley, in press; Fozdar, 2009). We will concentrate on the social, cultural, economic and political implications of both trans-national and intra-national mobilities.

Adding value to existing expertise. The workshop will extend the work of the recently founded Mobilities and Belonging (MoB) research group at the University of Western Australia ( The MoB will be officially launched in December 2013 through a local symposium Mobile Cultures: Migration, Movement and Society, co-hosted by the Australian Cultural Studies Association. In September 2013 group members ran a community workshop titled Settling in Western Australia: Government, Service Provider, Community and Researcher Forum. This brought together researchers, policy makers, government, NGOs, and communities, some of whom will participate in the workshop. Funded by a UWA Research Collaboration Award, MoB will host an international symposium titled “sustaining families and communities in transnational settings” in April 2014. The proposed workshop adds impetus to a developing programme aimed at stimulating local and national interest in this important topic.


Recent trends place Australia at the forefront of a number of important mobility issues:

  • as a prominent destination for ‘third-wave’ migration (from various nations) for highly skilled Europeans, creating a host of largely unexamined policies governing short-stays and multiple-entries;
  • the significance of Australia as a growing destination for international students, who comprise a significant proportion of tertiary sector funding, and who often become new settlers;
  • the controversial stance on asylum seekers and various public, academic and international responses;
  • Australia’s long history of immigration and varying commitments to multicultural policies arguably resulting in one of the most diverse and stable citizenries in the world.

Mobility is a key paradigm in the social sciences (Shelly & Urry 2006). Its association with opportunity, progress, and freedom, gives mobility important metaphoric power in the public imagination (Corbett 2009; Jensen 2011; Forsey forthcoming). The social implications of a highly mobile humanity are increasingly well documented, particularly in relation to stages of the life course (See Favell, Felblum & Smith 2006; Castles & Miller 2009; Cuervo & Wyn 2012; Baldassar & Merla 2013). This proposed workshop marks one of the first spaces to systematically analyse links between physical/social mobility and belonging across the life-course.

Mobility carries with it implications for belonging, ranging from cosmopolitan ‘belonging everywhere’, to belonging nowhere (homelessness, statelessness). It is also implicated in re-assertions of the importance of place in belonging and states of mind often expressed in terms of regionalism, nationalism, xenophobia and racism. Mobility is among the most important social issues of our time, raising complex questions for governance, policy discussion and public debate. Understanding these questions requires in-depth, interdisciplinary theoretical and practical engagement.

Australia’s foremost migration demographer, Graeme Hugo (2012: 13), recently declared Australia the most mobile nation on the planet, not only in international movements, but internal ones – nearly half the national population shifted their permanent place of residence in the last five years. Such movements carry significant policy implications at all levels of government, as politicians and planners struggle with the infrastructural realities of increasingly centralised urbanisation in Australia (Fincher, 2011). Simultaneously, the last decade or more has seen issues of migration, multiculturalism and capacities to live transnational lives emerge as significant in political and public discourse (Jupp, 2007; Jakubowicz and Ho, 2013; Markus, 2010; Fozdar, et al 2009; Fozdar, 2011).

Whatever their characteristics, all mobile peoples share a common experience of living lives and sustaining relationships, families and communities across distance and time. Cuervo and Wyn (2012) recently reminded us in relation to rural youth in Australia, that the complex uncertainties of late modernity increase pressures to actively shape our lives in acceptable ways. Movement towards the sorts of educational and employment opportunities offered in large urban centres in Australia, is a normalized means of change for many, promising control over an increasingly risky future.

Based at Western Australia’s premier university, in a state that is currently an epicentre for the movement of global capital, and a key hub for international labour and education markets, MoB positions itself in relation to Perth as one of the fastest growing and most diverse cities in the world. Perth’s proximity to, its interface with the Indian Ocean region and Africa; and its shared time zone with much of Asia offers a strong vantage point from which to address questions of global flows and circulations across a broad range of disciplines and countries.

Key themes include:

  • Life-course (and generational) aspects of mobility, impact of life stage on movement and settlement patterns,  drivers and motivations
  • Economic and social significance of transnational and intra-national migration
  • Social effects of Australia’s shift towards temporary, guest worker policies
  • Social class and social movement – who is moving, from where, to where, why?
  • Gendered movements – shifting roles in workplaces, families, social life etc.
  • Educational mobility – the links between physical movement and social mobility; internationalisation of education.
  • Immobilities – restrictions on movement, detention, nationalism.
  • Factors (and policy) facilitating or impeding practices and processes of transnational and multi-local relationships.