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Session Overview
RS16_03: Spatial Mobilities in the Life Course and Mobility Biographies
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Knut Petzold, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Session Chair: Heiko Rüger, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB), Germany
Location: BS.4.05B
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Fourth Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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The Increasing Instability Of Employment-related Mobility Biographies In Neoliberal Europe: A Cross-cohort Comparison

Gil Viry

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

This paper examines whether intensive forms of employment-related spatial mobility and their instability over the life course increased in Europe over the past decades. While some scholars argue that deregulated labour markets and increased employee flexibility resulted in greater instability of mobility behaviours, the existing literature on the relationship between spatial mobility and neoliberalism suffers from four shortcomings that this research aims to address. First, it moves beyond methodological nationalism by comparing four European countries: France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Second, it moves beyond cross-sectional studies by analysing mobility behaviours over the course of individual lives as mobility biographies. Third, it examines both labour migration and employment-related travel, and fourth, it goes beyond particularly mobile population, such as a global kinetic elite, to study national populations. Using retrospective survey data and sequence analysis, the study compares the mobility biographies of three cohorts born in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Results show that younger workers more often experience intensive forms of employment-related mobility than their elders. But mobility is increasingly experienced as short, repeated episodes, resulting in more unstable mobility biographies. The proportion of Europeans being highly mobile for their job is stable, confirming earlier findings. Spain is an exception with longer experiences among younger workers. Recent neoliberal reforms may accentuate the instability of mobility biographies, raising concerns about life disruption among young generations.

Towards a Mobility Biography Approach to Long-distance Travel and ‘Mobility Links’

Giulio Mattioli, Joachim Scheiner

TU Dortmund University, Germany

Over the last 15 years, biographical approaches have gained a foothold within transport studies. ´Mobility biographies´ research explains changes in travel behaviour over the life course as a function of changing residential, employment, and household/family (and other domain) biographies. It has thus contributed to highlight how different scales, temporalities and forms of spatial mobilities (e.g. residential relocation and commuting) co-evolve over the life course. Yet, so far, most of this research has focused on (largely short-distance) daily travel behaviour, and has relied on socio-psychological understandings of travel habits. In this theoretical paper, we propose to extend the mobility biography approach to long-distance travel (LDT), arguing that this requires some adaptations. Given the nature of much LDT – as infrequent, non-habitual, pre-planned 'breaks from routine' – greater emphasis should be placed on life-long socialisation dynamics, i.e. how intensive patterns of LDT develop (or not) over the life course. Notably, the 'mobility links' (Frӓndberg, 2014) between LDT and other forms of long-distance mobility (e.g. migration, multilocality) can be self-reinforcing, leading to the institutionalisation of LDT at the micro-social level, with associated structuration effects (Giddens, 1984). A better understanding of such links is crucial, given the societal, economic and environmental relevance of increasing levels of LDT. In the paper, we focus in particular on two mechanisms underlying such ‘mobility links’: the acquisition of mobility-related skills and competences, and the development of spatially dispersed social networks over the life course. We critically review empirical findings on these mechanisms, bringing together research from diverse fields (e.g. tourism, (trans)migration, multilocality, and social networks). We conclude by discussing future directions for research at the intersection between transport, mobilities and sociological studies.

Understanding the Reconstruction of Personal Networks Through Residential Migration Trajectories

Olga Ganjour1, Eric D. Widmer1, Gil Viry2, Jacques-Antoine Gauthier3, Vincent Kaufmann4, Guillaume Drevon4

1University of Geneva, Switzerland; 2University of Edinburgh, UK; 3University of Lausanne, Switzerland; 4Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland

This study examines how residential migration trajectories influence the spatiality and composition of personal networks. The adaptation of personal networks to residential migration is framed within a theoretical approach emphasizing individualization and personalization of relationships. Ego-centered network analysis combined with sequence analysis of residential trajectories are used to capture the relation between residential migration trajectories and personal networks of individuals from two birth cohorts in Switzerland. A typology of personal networks is constructed by taking into account both the composition and spatiality between ego and her/his significant alters. A series of regression analyses test the association between the types of personal networks and residential migration trajectories. Results discussed with respect to three mechanisms shaping the reconstruction of personal networks of individuals who moved away from their place of birth: addition of spatially close significant alters, selection of spatially distant significant alters and substitution of spatially distant significant alters by spatially close alters. Results show that individuals who passed large distance from their places of birth are embedded in large and diversified personal networks, including spatially distant members of family of origin, friends and local nuclear family, friends. Conversely, settled individuals, who lived close to their place of birth are included in small and homogeneous networks with the presence of local nuclear family and friends. We conclude that addition has the strongest effect on the reconstruction of personal networks due to residential migration in comparison with selection and substitution.

Practices Of Temporary Mobility And The Maintaining Of Friendships

Cornelia Tippel

ILS - Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development, Germany

Within the ongoing transformation of the sphere of work, work-related spatial mobility has been assumed to be a crucial characteristic of biographies and careers (Sheller/Urry, 2006). At the same time, this work-related spatial mobility has become more complex. Particularly when studying project work, spatial mobility is often temporary since the next project is at yet another place. Nevertheless, people in project work aim at maintaining social ties such as friendships and thus the increasing complexity of social ties on different spatial scales is emphasised by a range of scholars (Larsen et al., 2006; Brickell/Datta, 2011; Cronin, 2015).

In the light of these conditions, the proposed contribution presents qualitative findings from semi-structured interviews looking at work-related temporary mobility as well as its related practices of maintaining social ties. In doing so, it questions the concepts of circular mobility and migration and its distinction while presenting a rising type of mobility in-between both concepts. This type of mobility is mainly aiming at maintaining friendships and is often not based on a fixed place or residence. Rather, it includes staying at friends’ places, subletting rooms or flats at sharing platforms to maintain several options at places with relevant social ties. Thus, it complements classic concepts of social networks and emphasises the often neglected geographies of friendships (Bunnell et al., 2012). Moreover, it encompasses a distinct form of belonging, mainly based on social ties at several places than at one fixed single place.

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