Reference : Breaking through borders: routes, resources, modes and infrastructures of (im)mobilit...
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Anthropology
Breaking through borders: routes, resources, modes and infrastructures of (im)mobility in Higher Education
de Saint-Georges, Ingrid mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS) >]
Differences and discontinuities in a 'Europe without borders'
from 4-10-2016 to 7-10-2016
University of Luxembourg
[en] Mobility is a central force shaping Higher Education today. Figures about international outlook
of universities are particularly eloquent in depicting how diverse universities have become. These
figures show how many students are on the move as well as their motivation and aspirations.
They allow identifying where the sojourners are from or move to. While this “big data” is essential
to map the flow of students who cross national borders every year to get an education, there
is information that is more difficult to address from this quantitative perspective. Namely, it is
difficult to account for the experience of individuals who aspire to move to study, but in the
end, cannot and therefore remain immobile (Carling 2002, Juffermans & Tavares 2016). Such
a situation, however, is not infrequent, and affect particularly students of the Global South,
especially with the recent changes of focus in internationalization policies (Knight & de Wit 1995)
which makes it harder for them to access Universities in Europe.
In this paper, following Lindquist et al. (2012), we take the view that to understand these
processes of (im)mobility, it is perhaps useful to get away from the typical studies of regulations
of borders and identities in migration study, and to focus instead on the routes, the modes of
transportation, the infrastructures and the brokers which make mobility (im)possible. In order to
do that, we adopt a multisited and relational ethnographic approach (Marcus 1998, Desmond,
2014), examining the admission process to a Master programme in Luxembourg, and the
trajectory of applicants from Guinea Bissau to this programme. In following the trajectory of four
applicants, we examine the practices, discourses, infrastructures and people that help move these
students towards Luxembourg or on the contrary, erect borders that become impossible to cross
for them.
In our analysis, we draw from discourse analysis, human geography, social semiotics and
intervention studies, to analyse the chains of material-physical practices as well as the semiotic
realities facilitating or hindering movement. Understanding better these chains and connections,
we argue, allows to see if there are nodes/points on the road that are more crucial, that is, points
where talk, texts, or objects have the power to close down or opening up the routes (R. Scollon,
On an empirical level, we examine longitudinally the trajectory of three students as a means to
open up what Lindquist et al. (2012) call the “black box” of migration. On a theoretical level,
we seek to contribute to the development of nexus analysis—an interdisciplinary framework
that takes actions, mediations, processes and relation as central units for analysts interested
in understanding the roots of social change (Scollon & Scollon, 2004). On a methodological
level, we propose concrete steps for a study of routes and mobility revealing the permeability/
impermeability and relational nature of borders in higher education.

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