Temporalities of mobility and migration

Research group

Temporalities of mobility and migration

Picture of a painted wall - Aladdin
Photo: Lorenzo Cañás Bottos/NTNU

About us temporalities of mobility and migration

About us

Mobility is foundational for the human condition. A longstanding anthropological interest in forms of migration has been complemented, in recent years, by conceptual and theoretical debates that question the naturalization of sedentariness in cross-cultural comparisons, as well as representations of non-stop mobility as a hallmark of contemporaneity. Our group seeks to contribute to these debates by exploring the intersections of human motion and stasis, with a particular focus on time. The members of the group carry out ethnographic and anthropological research on mobility and migration in different parts of the world, and at different scales – from the phenomenology of micro-mobility in everyday life to large-scale historical patterns of population movements. The aim is to explore cross-culturally forms of human mobility with a particular emphasis on life cycles, generational particularities, memory, frequencies and rhythm of movement, imaginations of the future, and other temporal dimensions that situates mobility in particular historical contexts. 

With the focus on temporalities of mobility and migration, we are currently developing future projects along two lines, one for research locally (Cosmopolitan Trondheim) concerning migration and health, and one on a global scale, researching the massive rural-urban migration in this century, focusing on climate change migration and sustainable cities.



ASIANET 2022: Asia and Fragmented Globalisations 
Asianet-konferansen 2022 arrangeres av NTNU i samarbeid med Asianettverket 16-17 juni i Trondheim. Årets Asianet-konferanse tar et nedenfra og opp-perspektiv, og plasserer det lokale asiatiske dagliglivet i en bredere global kontekst. 

Time and Place: June 16-17, 2022, Handelshøyskolen, NTNU

Session 5a: Home and Away: Diverging Cross-Cultural Practices 
Session chair: Shuhua Chen (Social Anthropology, NTNU)

  • Tracing the boundaries of the home through the material and sociocultural framework of the domestic window: Reflections on Japan and Norway (Juliette Ringrose et al.)
  • Foreign movies and TV series as the source of political satire in an authoritarian context: Internet memes on Chinese social media (Qi Zheng)
  • Imposed reproductive freedoms: decoding the family planning enterprise in Uttar Pradesh, India (Vyoma Dhar Sharma)
  • Promoting new urbanism in Gulf cooperation council States (GCCs) urban region (Elnazir Ramadan)

Session 5b: Home and Away: Diverging Cross-Cultural Practices 
Session chair: Shuhua Chen (Social Anthropology, NTNU)

  • Same but different? Transnational research and educational collaboration in gender equality and diversity education (Jennifer Branlat & Priscilla Ringrose)
  • Queer Cinemas of the Sinosphere: Queer China Goes Out (Zoran Lee Pecic)
  • Journeying toward home? Everyday life experience of homeawayness among rural migrants in urban China (Shuhua Chen)
  • Evolving Identities: South Asian Zoroastrian Migration Stories (Sharmeen Mehri)
  • New Updated Renewable Energy in Cambodia: Challenges, Opportunities and Relations Recommendations (Panhaping Theang and Nimol Thuon)

All are welcome!

Read more for the ASIANET 2022:

Agata Kochaniewicz, PhD student from our research group, is currently visiting Gender Studies Department in Lund University. Together with other PhD students and professors she organizes a symposium: “Queer solidarity across and beyond borders”. 

In recent years, we have witnessed a rise in anti-gender authoritarianism in Europe which has negatively impacted the daily lives of queer people. The state-sanctioned violence and brutality have become normalized through the policing of Pride events and suppression of various spaces of queer activism. This backlash against the LGBTQI+ community is related to the growing prominence of populist, far-right, nationalist, and xenophobic ideologies across Europe, from PiS in Poland, to Fidesz in Hungary, AKP in Turkey, and SD in Sweden. The ongoing COVID19 pandemic has also laid bare and worsened the structural inequalities that mark the lives of queer and transgender people.

Nevertheless, queer activists continue to mobilise and strengthen their intersectional alliances within national sites as well as beyond borders through online and offline activism. At this event, we invite activists from Hungary, Poland, Sweden, and Turkey, who are involved in these struggles to share their resistances and organizing strategies for queer futures. The Symposium aims to facilitate the exchange of ideas and solidarity between activists across borders and provide tools to resist growing anti-gender and anti- LGBTQI ideologies. 

Post doc Shuhua Chen is presenting at the Antropologidagene 2022
Photo: Shuhua Chen / NTNU

For the Anthropology Days in Trondheim 2022, Dr. Shuhua Chen led a public discussion with guest panellists (migrant students from Ethiopia) to explore the challenging concept of ‘home’ in the contemporary world that is marked by its unprecedented mobility, and filled with uncertainty especially in a time of ‘crisis’ with the Covid-19 pandemic, and wars. 

Home could be a set of relations, a feeling, a journey, a song, a piece of land, or a moment in writing. What we mean when we talk about home varies with the context. All that matters is how we experience it: our search for it, constructing it, struggling for it, enjoying it. Here, we consider home not just as a house and social reproduction, a socio-spatial engagement or a search for personal or collective identities, but as a collapse of all kinds of experience into one’s inner feeling, a mental yet also bodily state of self-accommodation within oneself. ‘Home’, in a world of movement, therefore becomes less like a noun and more like a verb, ‘homing’: a doing, dwelling, making, feeling, remembering, writing, or returning. We approach ‘homing’ as an individual practice and deep feeling that might be shared as universal truth beyond social, cultural, political boundaries—homing, a visit to one’s inner world, a mental yet bodily state of feeling at home within oneself. 

Read more: https://www.antropologi.org/post/untitled?fbclid=IwAR0Bf9xUGlYsTUH0fdOs8jrBQanbiqhCKQ0oAjAa6yGf7BBsEPTLx9mIzHI

New publication by Lorenzo Cañás Bottos with Tanja Plasil and Håkon B. Stokland on competing authenticities in the Norwegian vanilla tastescape:

Natural ingredient or nostalgic taste? Competing authenticities in the Norwegian vanilla tastescape 

Vanillin has been the main source of vanilla flavoring in products such as vanilla sugar, sauce and ice cream throughout the twentieth century, and hence the authentic taste Norwegians associated with vanilla. However, over the last twenty years critics have pointed out that this taste is not made from the seeds of the vanilla plant, but is synthetic and industrially produced. In this article we explore the multiple modes of attribution of authenticity within the Norwegian vanilla tastescape. Here we distinguish between phenomenological and objectivist claims of authenticity, and explore how these modes are articulated in diverse domains: From the public sphere through authors, bloggers, and influencers as well as within product development and national and supranational regulatory bodies.

OPEN ACCESS: https://www.idunn.no/doi/10.18261/nat.33.1.4

New publication by Dr. Shuhua Chen with Sara Bonfanti and Aurora Massa on migration, homemaking and vulnerability:

Focaal volume 2022: Issue 92 (March 2022): Vulnerable homes on the move
Guest Editors: Sara Bonfanti, Shuhua Chen, Aurora Massa

In a world of rampant inequality, when millions seek out better futures elsewhere, this introduction situates critical experiences of dwelling within recent debates on home and migration. Seeing vulnerability as an active condition, this theme section records the attempts of individuals and groups on the move in fashioning a home despite adverse socio-cultural, economical, and political situations. Our argumentation considers: the imbrication of structural forces and existential power, the complexity of temporal registers across the life course, and the human capacity for home-making. As asylum-seekers, evicted refugees and deprived migrant families struggle to feel at home in precarious circumstances, our ethnographies reveal the violence inflicted by social systems but also the agency of subjects who strive to make the places they inhabit everyday worth living.

OPEN ACCESS: https://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/focaal/2022/92/focaal.2022.issue-92.xml

Innvandrerbakgrunn og minoritetsspråklighet er ofte sett på som en utfordring i helsevesenet. Derfor har vi startet en samarbeid mellom Temporalities of Mobility and Migration forskergruppe, Institutt for sosialantropologi, NTNU og Regionalt Senter for Fedmeforskning og Innovasjon (ObeCe), St. Olavs Hospital. I denne pilotstudien ved NTNU Helse skal vi se nærmere på hvordan tverrfaglig samarbeid kan bidra i  

  • å undersøke og tilpasse tilgang til helsevesenet for innvandrere 
  • å undersøke og forbedre forståelse mellom helsepersonell og innvandrere 
  • å undersøke kosthold, livsstil og folkehelse blant innvandrerbefolkningen

Utgående av to workshops i høst skal vi bygge opp et tverrfaglig nettverk for utvikling av konkrete planer for videre forsking og utvikling av verktøy i helsevesenet omkring dette viktige temaet. 
Mer informasjon om prosjekt og workshop: tanja.plasil@stolav.no

Agata Kochaniewicz, member of the research group Temporalities of Mobility and Migration, has together with other staff at NTNU and at Mangfoldshuset in Trondheim recently received a grant of 40 000 from Trondheim Kommune for the project The Blind Spot(s).

The Blind Spot(s) is a project consisting of monthly discussion panels, starting in August (2021) and lasting to December (2021). The idea of is to shed light on less explored and less discussed issues in the local community. Blind spots in the social landscape we would like to uncover are matters of identities, diversity, multiculturalism, (mis)representation, overt and covert racial stereotypes. All discussions will be announced and are open to the public (in line with pandemic regulations). Both the participants and guest speakers will be local people who are knowledgeable about the topics and from whom we all can learn a lot about the blind spots. The themes are as follow:

  1. Navigation of multiple identities
  2. Pandemic and its effects on society: how can we provide support by society for society?
  3. The language of media about immigrants during the pandemic
  4. Multiculturalism and workplace

Partners: Trondheim Kommune, Hovedbibliotek, Humanistene, Mangfoldshuset, NTNU, Lokal

New publication by Jan Ketil Simonsen on aldring, overlevelse og tvetydighet i en fattig bydel i Lusaka, Zambia:

«Hvem skal ta vare på oss nå?» Aldring, overlevelse og tvetydighet i en fattig bydel i Lusaka, Zambia

The basis for the survival of elderly persons in Africa south of Sahara, is the so-called ‘intergenerational debt’ in which children are obliged to support in exchange for their own upbringing, their aging parents. For many elders in urban Zambia today, where this study was carried out, the ‘intergenerational debt’ is under stress because their children were hit hard by the hiv/aids pandemic. Rather than being supported by their children, many elders have become caretakers of the grandchildren left behind. There is a big gap between the ideal norms and values of care and respect for the elders, which is held high, and the precarious material and social situation the elderlies experience.

OPEN ACCESS: https://www.idunn.no/doi/10.18261/issn.1504-2898-2021-03-04-05

New publication by Agata Kochaniewicz on relationship-making between middle-class migrant women in Norway:

Time and friendship in the Corona pandemic: Relationship-making between middle-class migrant women in Norway

The pandemic’s rupture in people’s lives was felt in a particular way among foreign-born middle-class women in Trondheim. In the situation of unexpected (im)mobility and anxieties related to the pandemic, the lack of close relationships in the local context, was significantly felt. Despite digital acceleration, that was witnessed with pandemic, it highlighted the centrality of local presence and physicality of relations. The pandemic created a situation in which women realised the importance of having friends in the local community to cope with the restrictions and triggered a necessity for the otherwise highly mobile individuals to establish new relationships and explore the local environment. In this article, I discuss the formation of such relationships and the role of social media platforms, more specifically the role of a local social media-based initiative for mobile women with diverse cultural backgrounds. I argue that ‘affective time’ of pandemic created temporalities for forming a community for sharing sufferings, security, and joyful distractions from the crisis. This article considers meaning and experiences of friendship under condition of uncertainty and how relationship-making shape migrant’s woman engagement with the present. I follow a methodology of friendship, developed by Tillmann-Healy (2003), as a useful tool to research friendship-making practices and specifically in times of crisis.

OPEN ACCESS: https://www.ejournals.eu/pliki/art/20981/

Photos: Lorenzo Cañás Bottos
Text: Lorenzo Cañás Bottos, Jan Ketil Simonsen.

This series comes from a cooperative project between Peter Crawford (UiT), Jan Ketil Simonsen (NTNU), and Lorenzo Cañás Bottos (NTNU), documenting the social life of pigs in Extremadura, from conception to consumption. These are animals of Iberian breed, popularly called "pata negra", whose hams are the product of exclusive consumption. Their distinctive feature is that, in their last three months of life, they are fattened in the open field with acorns (the source of the distinctive flavor to their by-products). 

Fieldwork is usually solitary, and anthropologists are rarely able to see colleagues and or teachers in action. This series accounts for some epistemological dilemmas inherent in attempting to capture "the native’s point of view" in the context of multi-species ethnographies. 

Picture of pigs in the dehesa
Photo: Lorenzo Cañás Bottos / NTNU

Photo 1: in the dehesa, shows the dilemma of selectivity at the time of filming. The anthropologist has to decide whether to focus on the oak, the herder, or the pigs. Like the pigs, he does not know which oak the herder will be going to. Therefore, he wanders next to the pigs, following the calls of the herder while the latter facilitates the fall of the acorns with his rod.  While the pigs eat the acorns, the anthropologist goes co-constructing his ethnographic record.

Picture of a pig barn
Photo: Lorenzo Cañás Bottos / NTNU

Photo 2: illustrates the attempt to capture the point of view of the pigs when they return from the corral to the pigsty. Two contrasts emerge here  that show the inherent dilemma of trying to capture the pig simultaneously as an object and as a subject with a point of view. On one side, between the statism of the cameraman, standing in his place, against the dynamism of the pigs, which are avalanche to him. On the other hand, when trying to approach the faces of the pigs "from the point of view of the pig", it is necessary to confront the point of view of the latter. Registering the face, an act of both objectification and mutual recognition, becomes incompatible with capturing the point of view of pigs.

Picture of a pig at the butcher
Photo: Lorenzo Cañás Bottos / NTNU

Photo 3: they do not enter the processing plant as pigs, but as canales (pig carcass). The change of nomenclature indicates that it is no longer a standing animal, but an inanimate object at the moment just prior to its disassembly and transformation into food for humans (pork, ham, pickles and sausages).  It no longer enters walking on its paws but hanging from them.  One after another the canales make the same route and are subjected to the same treatment. They neither have a gaze nor point of view, their eyes have been removed with their head and other organs. They have become pure objects, both for the anthropologist's camera and for the butcher's knife.  The anthropologist can then plan and predict the shots, predictability and repetition both in the path of the canal, and in the butcher's knife, which becomes a new object and point of view. 

Read more: https://www.cgantropologia.org.ar/resultados-del-concurso-de-fotografia-lugares-y-practicas-en-el-trabajo-de-campo-2020/

Research projects

Research projects

Jan Ketil Simonsen

Cultural reproduction, invention and change among Mambwe-speaking migrants in Lusaka, Zambia is a longitudinal research project examining ritual performances and kinship practices among the migrants and their rural relatives. Ethnographic attention is given to performances of life-cycle rituals, and kinship, mutual aid, and mobility between rural and urban areas. The project focuses on how the migrants recreate old social categories and cultural notions as well as generate new ones across cultural, social, and generational differences in town – forming novel practices, imaginations and moralities.

Lorenzo Cañás Bottos

Like most “New World” nation states, Argentina has been constructed following guiding fictions that gave a central place to immigration in the construction of a modern nation. This project focuses on the processes of standardization and mobility at work in the making of national citizens out of heterogeneous and hierarchically valued immigrants. Indeed, not all immigrants were considered equal and those from the Middle East were placed at the bottom of the official preference scale. Despite their initial classification as an “undesirable” group for official immigratory policy (which was also mirrored in the attitudes they received from the local elites), a good number of individuals of Levantine descent have managed to achieve a high degree of success and integration, occupying important positions in both the public (including important positions as high ranking officers in the armed forces to the public political sphere as legislators, governors, and even reaching the presidency of the republic) and the private sectors –from successful merchants to owners of industrial and media conglomerates. 

In addition to their social and economic mobility, this project focuses in the constant making and unmaking of subjectivities throughout their time in Argentina (the Levantines that arrived in Argentina belonged to different religious backgrounds –different type of Christians, Sunni Muslims, as well as Sepharadic jews) and their categorization has been under constant flux, both on the denominational level as well as on their structures of associationalism. This is of particular interest when dealing with issues of immigration and integration, on what grounds the border between an immigrant, and its potentially assimilated descendants can be labelled as either “turks”, “syro-Lebanese”, “Argentines”, “Argentines of Syro Lebanese descent” or simply undifferentiated Argentines? These  processes of categorization and standardization from below, and ways marking difference, manifest themselves also in practice on the level of cultural performance in general and gastronomic practices, and dance in particular. In short, this project examines the complex processes between the construction of national subjectivities, and the maintenance and construction of cultural difference.

Shuhua Chen

For many of us, home has been long in the making. Home-making can also be a phenomenological moment in individual experience. It might be fleeting, subtle, personal, and possibly private. What does ‘home’ tell us about the human condition, especially in the contemporary world that is marked by its unprecedented mobility? This research project examines the challenging concept of ‘home’ in the contemporary world from an existential perspective and places individual experience as a focus of concerns upon cosmopolitan stands. It explores the interior experience of migration by considering both the phenomenology of home away from home and the imaginative and practical construction of home and home-(un)making in different timescales: in moments, throughout the years of a life-course, and across generations. 

In particular, this project focuses on two practices of migration. Firstly, I examine the immense historical migration of people from South China to Southeast Asia (the Nanyang Migration, from 1860s to 1970s) through archival work with qiaopi remittance letters from overseas Chinese to their families in China. I explore the functions of qiaopi as a means of constructing home both literally, through the provision of financial remittances, and metaphorically, as a form of intimate communication with one’s family. Secondly, I examine the internal rural-urban migration in contemporary China, through ethnographic fieldwork in South China by living and working for fourteen months together with rural-urban migrants in a toy factory in Shantou. This research develops a key concept, homeawayness, as an entry point for understanding the floating mind-set of the Chinese migrant population and its social, cultural, political, and environmental implications. The research also explores questions such as: What do ‘sustainable cities’ mean to migrants? Do their voices matter? Beyond a consideration of urban dynamics and their emergent forms, should future policy making also take into account rural situations when designing urban Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)? That is, making cities as ‘home’—stay-able cities for migrants—as well as making rural areas return-able for migrants?

Aina Backman

The thesis discusses work at Swedish immigration detention centers and documents the Swedish deportation regime by exploring the work-life conditions under which detention and deportation is realized. The research takes the form of an ethnographic study based on fieldwork at Sweden’s six detention institutions during 2019. With the study, I aim raise questions about work life, immigration detention and the mechanisms that connect the two.

Agata Maria Kochaniewicz, Fride Josøk, Elizabeth Bristow, Nina Helen Amundsen, Tuva Spigseth

Cosmopolitan Trondheim is a research program and an umbrella for studies of cultural diversity in the city of Trondheim, carried out by staff and students alike. The main aim of the program is to provide through ethnographic field research an alternative view of Trondheim based on the experiences of migrants and the ways in which migrants and mobile persons interact across boundaries, recognizing commonalities and forging a sense of humanistic sensibility and moral responsibility beyond the local, while at the same time recognizing differences.



Agata Maria Kochaniewicz
PhD Candidate, Department of Social Anthropology

The aim of this project is to analyse how migrants build, maintain and alter social ties in Trondheim and how the network practises construe cultural notions of sameness and senses of belonging, as well as cultural differences. The project questions what kind of tactics and strategies migrants employ in their everyday networking practices. Nowadays people switch routinely from one network to another in order to act and organize their everyday life (work, family, friends, neighbourhood, and contacts established through digital social medias). Being part of multiple networks, people are also part of different discourses and storytelling practices. Following the crisscrossing networks and narrative practices, the project examines how the cultural notions of commonalities, differences and belonging is construed. The research will provide a better understanding if and how migrants networks maintain or cross social boundaries like nationality, class, gender, age and education.

Fride Josøk
Graduate, Department of Social Anthropology

Ethnographic field research is conducted at a primary school in Trondheim. The school is a “reception school”, receiving newcomers for language training, which makes it especially diverse when it comes to language, nationality, religion, background and appearance. I question which differences the children themselves make significant in their everyday interaction in the classroom and the schoolyard, and which differences are made evident to the children by the other actors in the school context. The school management and the employees have an explicit ideology of cultural diversity, and I examine how this in some instances may contribute to construct differences which are not so obvious or important to the children. In most instances, the children find differences of nationality, religion and appearance rather irrelevant. Language on the other hand, seem to be an important organizing principle for both the school and the children. The social significances of linguistic plurality are, therefore, an important theme in the project.

Elizabeth Bristow
Graduate, Department of Social Anthropology

My fieldwork is centered around the experience of integration. The concept of integration presents several challenges when confronted with real life experiences. A simple question such as "What is integration?" already includes a cluster of ideas and opinions (from the majority and the minorities) which do not necessarily match the experience of individuals going through structured integrational processes in Norway. 

The main issue which I am exploring is the standardized methods through which new members of Norwegian society are faced with. When in a Norwegian language course, a member of the class says, "thank God you have a dialect, I've only ever learned to understand 'bokmål' (standard Norwegian/eastern Norwegian dialect)", I was immediately intrigued. Through conversations and observations, it is becoming increasingly clear that the seemingly innocent ways we as a host country are teaching foreigners about Norwegian culture is not necessarily actually preparing the individuals for finding their own position in society, but teaching them how to fit in to the position of a foreigner in Norway.

Nina Helen Amundsen
Graduate, Department of Social Anthropology

In this thesis, I explore how young adults with multiple national attachments negotiate a sense of belonging in a Norwegian national space. By way of a mostly digital fieldwork, I have investigated narratives of emplacement through interviews, focus groups, digital correspondences, and social media profiles. I understand a sense of belonging to be claimed through the implicit and explicit use of categorical identities. In this respect, I find the terms ‘norsk’ and ‘utlending’ to be of significance. Through a social fields’ perspective, I argue that personal attachments are not claimed in a vacuum. Rather, senses of belonging must be seen in relation to the politics of belonging. This discursive resource takes the form of nationalism. Furthermore, understanding belonging as a struggle located in the interplay of the former and the latter, I use the analogy of a game to account for its performative, intersubjective, and relational nature. I take the Norwegian game of national belonging to be constituted of two separate, yet highly interlinked games. Namely, the official and the aristocratic game. The first mentioned has to do with issues of citizenship, and the latter with intersubjective relations. Each game makes national belonging a quest of ‘fitting in’; of proving one’s Norwegianness against a national ideal. Yet, in one game such acts of ‘self-improvement’ are translated into a perceived sameness, while they are taken as proof of one’s inherent difference in the other. I find national belonging to be a matter of either/or, as well as a matter of more, or less. Accordingly, I find hierarchies of belonging to be present on both levels, as well as in my informants’ statements. While established narratives limit how a sense of belonging is claimed, such narratives are also challenged. Through claiming, redefining, and reproducing categorical identities, my informants creatively cross boundaries of national belonging as well as creating new ways to belong in the national order of things.

Tuva Spigseth
Graduate Student, Department of Social Anthropology

This project will take a closer look at the digital everyday life of displaced individuals, such as asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, and how they orient themselves digitally in a time that for many consists of waiting for residence permit. I will look at the practices and notions of digital media (mainly the mobile phone) among users at an NGO, Caritas Trondheim, to gain an insight into digital, everyday routines to study the role of digital media in relation to the experience of safety, stability and insecurity in everyday life. What digital, social practices are established? How can the use of digital media create continuity and disruption in their everyday lives?

What kind of relations are seen as important for them to maintain through digital media? Are new types of relationships taking on a completely different form or meaning over digital media? What does this mean for them, in relation to the waiting situation several people are experiencing? Approaching an understanding of how displaced individuals use digital media in everyday life, and what kind of communication practices that are seen as important, can give me an understanding of how the use of digital media can bring people across borders together, and share a common, virtual coexistence.

Former project

Former project

Tone Sommerfelt

This postdoctoral project focuses on mobility and kinship in a study of marriage ideals and patterns in a rural area in West Africa, in local communities where different forms of migration and movement are integral to everyday life. It explores how properties of particular materialities – money, agricultural produce, imported commodities, and bodily substance ¬– and their circulation, constitute particular forms of relatedness and sociality. I seek to investigate the analytical potential of recent mobility perspectives for kinship studies, and to link the mobility literature to the theoretical turn in anthropology towards ‘the material’. The project is also motivated by an interest to explore the analytical fruitfulness of the notion of ‘proximity’ for understanding processes by which social relations and their material enactments come into being – in localities characterised by migration and emigration.




Cosmopolitan Trondheim

Migration, Food & Health

Rural-urban Migration, Home & Sustainable Cities