Onward (im)mobilities: conceptual reflections and empirical findings from lifestyle migration research and refugee studies

Stefan Kordel, Tobias Weidinger


Taking the new mobility paradigm as a starting point, this article provides a broader perspective on migration processes that goes beyond decision-making processes, the journey and the arrival, and addresses onward mobilities instead. In this regard, we assume that people permanently negotiate the decision where and how to live by means of various mobility practices and the establishment of place-based belonging. In order to capture different migrant groups, we provide empirical material from two different mixed methods case studies: (1) a study on relatively affluent lifestyle migrants in coastal areas and the rural hinterland in Spain and (2) refugees, who were initially placed in rural Bavaria, Germany. We firstly aim to unravel mobility processes among lifestyle migrants and refugees after arrival in Spain or Germany. Secondly, we aim to identify how migrants’ mobility strategies counteract sedentarist logics of the state. Empirical data show that migrants’ onward mobilities vary at length and thus blur boundaries between residential and everyday mobility. While negotiating mobility and immobility, they develop agency and learn to decide whether, when and how to be mobile or to be fixed to places and establish strategies how to deal with territorially based logics of the state. Thus, state authorities are highly interested in regulations to identify where people reside. Apart from security issues, particularly welfare states have to find solutions how to be responsible for people in a way that goes beyond territorially based registrations. In conceptual terms, results finally provide empirical evidence for a broader understanding of migration, especially considering onward mobility and forms of desired immobility.


migration; new mobility paradigm; lifestyle migrants; refugees; agency

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