Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Flows and Immobilities

“Flows and Immobilities” is a deliberately broad term to describe diverse forms of movement that structure spatialities and make places as they are channeled by them. While one approach to human flows is to categorize them (as, e.g., migrations, pilgrimages, invasions, refugee flows, commuter patterns, etc.), Cresswell's concept of “constellations of mobility”—“historically and geographically specific formations of movements, narratives about mobility and mobile practices”—offers a useful framework for thinking about the ways in which mobilities and immobilities produce and are produced by social relations of power (Cresswell 2010, 17, 22; see also Nail’s concept of “regime[s] of social motion” Nail 2015, 3). Massey, meanwhile, calls attention to the “power geometry…[that] concerns not merely the issue of who moves and who doesn't…[but also] power in relation to the flows and the movement” (Massey 1994, 149). Flows of people interact with the circulation of commodities and money (and people can flow as commodities) and of ideas, from the global transmission of expert knowledge (e.g., on frontier settlement) to the local exchange of social information (e.g., through intimate encounters with others). Yet as Hannam et al. (2006) note, an emphasis on what Bauman called a deterritorialized “liquid modernity” risks obscuring the importance of the immobilities (human, infrastructural, etc.) on which mobilities depend and by/through which they are configured. Flows, meanwhile, can also produce contingent sedimentations of matter and being that remake environments and give new meanings to places.

In Conversation with Other Crossings

Flows and Immobilities draws our attention to when, where, and how people, objects, goods, capital, knowledge, energy, and biota move or remain in place. It directs our attention to a movement or kind of movement (a flow) or a kind of stasis (an immobility) and then allows us to examine how Environments, Imaginative Geographies, Boundaries, Vehicles, and/or Rationalities enable that flow or immobility. We can also compare and contrast the Flows and Immobilities of particular people, objects, goods, capital, knowledge, energy, and biota with the way that they appear as Figures, whose meanings are derived from particular Imaginative Geographies and/or Rationalities.


Cresswell, T. “Towards a Politics of Mobility.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28, no. 1 (2010): 17–31.

Hannam, Kevin, Mimi Sheller, and John Urry. “Editorial: Mobilities, Immobilities and Moorings.” Mobilities 1, no. 1 (March 1, 2006): 1–22.

Massey, Doreen. “A Global Sense of Place.” In Space, Place, and Gender, 146–56. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

Nail, Thomas. The Figure of the Migrant. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2015.

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