‘Settled in Mobility’: Engendering Post-Wall Migration in Europe


Morokvasic, Mirjana. 2004. “‘Settled in Mobility’: Engendering Post-Wall Migration in Europe.” Feminist Review 77 (1): 7–25.

Author: Mirjana Morokvasic


`The end of the bi-polar world and the collapse of communist regimes triggered an unprecedented mobility of people and heralded a new phase in European migrations. Eastern Europeans were not only 'free to leave' to the West but more exactly 'free to leave and to come back'. In this text I will focus on gendered transnational, cross-border practices and capabilities of Central and Eastern Europeans on the move, who use their spatial mobility to adapt to the new context of post-communist transition. We are dealing here with practices that are very different from those which the literature on 'immigrant transnationalism' is mostly about. Rather than relying on transnational networking for improving their condition in the country of their settlement, they tend to 'settle within mobility,' staying mobile 'as long as they can' in order to improve or maintain the quality of life at home. Their experience of migration thus becomes their lifestyle, their leaving home and going away, paradoxically, a strategy of staying at home, and, thus, an alternative to what migration is usually considered to be - emigration / immigration. Access to and management of mobility is gendered and dependent on institutional context. Mobility as a strategy can be empowering, a resource, a tool for social innovation and agency and an important dimension of social capital - if under the migrants' own control. However, mobility may reflect increased dependencies, proliferation of precarious jobs and, as in the case of trafficking in women, lack of mobility and freedom.



“Mobility and the capacity to be mobile play an important part in the strategies of these migrants. Rather than trying to immigrate and settle in the target country, migrants tend to 'settle within mobility,' staying mobile 'as long as they can' in order to improve or maintain the quality of life at home.” (11)

“Thus, although the cross-border trading trips engage both men and women, their functioning relies on unquestioned gender relationships and hierarchies which assign to women and men different expectations and positions, to the point that every younger good-looking woman on the 'Polish market' or in the train is considered as a potential prostitute.” (15)

“Besides enabling women a transnational, double presence, combining life 'here' and 'there', the rotation system yields other opportunities for agency. First, women avoid being captured in an institutionalized form of dependency vis-d vis a single employer, which is the case with live-in maids, for instance… Third, in the sector where upward mobility is impossible, and where most of the East European women are de-classed and de-skilled, the experience in a rotation system can be a stepping stone to setting up a business, that is, one's own rotation group, using established local connections and building up a new network.” (17)

“Trafficked women are coerced into a totally dependent status vis-a-vis the trafficker or their employer who usually confiscates their passports and their return tickets. This makes independent mobility impossible and leaves them at the mercy of a rotation scheme across European borders, being transferred from one city to another at intervals within the limits of their three-month tourist visas. The three- month limit means that women are unable to establish long-term connections with the outside world.” (18)

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Trafficking, Human Trafficking Regions: Europe, Central Europe, Eastern Europe

Year: 2004

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