Musicians and activists gather at the U.S.-Mexico border for the annual Fandango Fronterizo Festival. On both sides of the wall, attendees sing, dance, and come together as a community. Photo by Charlie Weber/Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives/Smithsonian Institution
Migration—as we’ve been saying all along—is a shared human experience that connects us all, at some point in our own or our family history. And yet, sometimes people are not able or not allowed to move, even if they might want to. Sometimes power means being able to stay still when others have to move, but at other times, only the powerful are able to move freely.
When we talk about mobility, we have to consider, who can move and who cannot? What are the reasons for why they can’t move?
For example, when African Americans first gained access to automobiles, this offered the freedom to move, but also exposed them to danger. The PBS documentary Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America explores this history and how it continues into today.
People who are themselves migrants, or who live in contested border zones, often find it difficult to stay on the move. Border or immigration authorities often require people to stay in one place until their status is resolved. In 2020, the worldwide lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated these people’s lives, in different ways depending on their particular situation. Writers in Anthropology News explored cases among Syrian, Egyptian, Palestinian, and Iraqi migrants in Istanbul; Central American migrants in the United States; and displaced people from Gali, Abkhazia, in the Caucasus.