Panel 8

Rethinking gendered mobilities and immobilities

Panel organisers: Johanna Bergman Lodin, Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.


In many cultures, social norms surrounding mobility in public spaces add to the physical constraints induced by underdeveloped mobility-scapes by particularly curtailing women’s freedom to move outside their residential compounds and beyond. Marital status, ethnicity and class are examples of other social identities negotiating individual mobility. Constrained mobility may also influence access to important resources and services, consequently impacting social mobility over a life course.

Mobility is often conceptualized as revealed movement and used as an indicator of agency and empowerment. However, not all forms of movement are empowering and reflect agency. Norms can also induce mobility pressures on already time-constrained gendered subjects, e.g. linked to constructions of masculine responsibility for provisioning. The everyday or permanent movements of women and men may therefore also reflect their disempowerment within their households and or communities.

In this panel I invite contributions revisiting the mobility concept by exploring its gendered meanings and power relations, and or interrogating the multiple ways gender and mobility in rural and urban Africa intersect, including causes and effects of gendered mobilities and immobilities.

Topical questions include but are not limited to:

  • How can we theorize mobility in a gender sensitive way, which also accounts for other intersecting social identities?
  • How do social norms shape patterns of gendered mobility and immobility?
  • How are gendered mobilities and immobilities influencing women’s and men’s empowerment and livelihoods in specific contexts?
  • What role is there for virtual mobility in relation to this? To what extent can it substitute for physical mobility?
  • To what extent should power, agency, identity and subjectivity be considered as not only gendered dimensions relating to mobility but as constituted in mobility/immobility per se?


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