Articulating 'Mobilisation'

Subject-Formation in Mediated Mobilities

DOC-team (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

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Starting point for our DOC-team project is the observation that mobilities have become increasingly important in everyday lives as well as academic debates, demanding to unsettle static concepts in social sciences and humanities. However, research still lacks a thorough analysis that bridges those two fields and incorporates issues such as the relationship between voluntary and involuntary mobility, different experiences of mobilities by different agents and their spreading through articulation in distinct media contexts.
Our DOC-team wants to address these complex and challenging aspects and contribute to the debates within mobility studies (and related sub-disciplines) by focusing on how related subject-formations are being articulated in different media. We are interested in the idea of a ‘mobile subject’ in various media contexts, if understood as the negotiation of mobility between structure and agency. We eventually want to suggest a conceptualisation of these various processes of subject-formation with the term ‘mobilisation’. In other words, the notion of ‘mobilisation’ will be established to theorise cultural subject-formations in mediated forms of mobility. While rethinking the concept of ‘mobilisation’ beyond its literal meaning is the main objective, the DOC-team also wants to ‘mobilise’ theories of different disciplines and suggest alternatives for theorising mobile subject-formations.
Therefore, our DOC-team builds on considerations in mobility studies that address power inequalities in mobilities as well as interrelated mobilities of people, objects, practices and ideas. Moreover, we will refer to the concept of “mediated mobilities” as developed by Keightley and Reading (2014) in reaction to the growing importance of mobilities in mediated communication. Our DOC-team project follows the demands of Keightley and Reading in various ways, for instance, by bridging the divide between culture and society and analysing subject-formation in distinct socio-historical settings. We will further analyse these conjunctions of mobilities and media from the angle of subjectformation.
Therefore, we draw from a number of theories on subject-formation and their interrelations between discourses, agency, performativity, and hegemony. In order to develop an extensive understanding of ‘mobilisation’, all three participating projects will inquire different articulations of mobility, agency and performativity that negotiate mobile subject-formation in distinctive medial and social conditions:

Syntia Hasenöhrl (Political Science) addresses subject-formation on the reverse side of contemporary societies: She analyses how the internet can serve marginalised mobile agents as a political space for re-articulating alternative subject positions, as virtual mobility allows challenging dominant discourses
on diasporas, migrants and refugees. She focuses on a transnational  contact-zone, using the example of communication by Malian diasporas online and offline.

Roman Kabelik (German Studies) pursues a historical inquiry into the forms of ‘mobilisation’ of people in literary texts that will reveal the discursive value of movements for a (Middle-)European bourgeois subject-culture which remained hegemonic for a large part of the 18th and 19th century. Imaginations of mobilised subjects, e.g. as travellers, scholars or envoys, highlight the ever-changing relevance of specific forms of movements for certain members of society, while other forms are marginalised, e.g. migrants, vagabonds or refugees. Furthermore, fictional renderings also negotiate transnational experiences and processes of diasporic identifications, laying bare the conflicting and often contradictory roles that mobility plays for an increasingly contingent subject-culture in times of emerging national-states, tourism, urbanisation, and migration.

Barbara Maly-Bowie (British Cultural Studies) investigates this conjunction of mobility and subjectculture in contemporary modes of production and consumption, especially the commodification of mobile practices in relation to television going online. She will show how discourses of leisure, media
and technology form subjects and narratives in a transnational space, that is structured by a strong market and participatory logic; thus exploring how ‘mobilisation’ can mean change and resistance but also incorporation and capitalization at the same time.

For investigating the complex relationships between mobility, media and subject-formation, the concept of “articulation” as introduced by Stuart Hall (1996) will serve as the overall methodological and programmatic framework: It describes the processes through which cultural forms are actively produced under particular conditions and how positions are arranged within these new combinations.
Subject and structure are not understood as separate sites but as always corresponding and mutually influencing categories that produce specific complexities. This concept will be appropriated from the angles of German Studies, (British) Cultural Studies and Political Science. Especially close readings
of media texts and social practices, informed by relevant theories from different disciplines, will help explore their potential for negotiating ‘mobilisation’: By means of critical discourse analysis, qualitative interview methods, historical (inter-)discourse analyses of literary texts, and multimodal analysis,
discursive patterns, strategies and structures in the articulations of subject positions, particularly in relation to nationality, race, ethnicity and gender, will be analysed for their mobilising potential within different contexts. In this way, the concept of articulation will further refer to the joint interdisciplinary
effort of developing and formulating ‘mobilisation’ as the theory of the discursive formation of mobile subjects.
In this way, the DOC-team will combine the expertise of each member and come to an explorative conceptual development of ‘mobilisation’ that will enhance our understanding of mediated subjectformation in mobile cultures and societies.