Migration, Mobilities and the Arab Spring

Migration, Mobilities and the Arab Spring

Spaces of Refugee Flight in the Eastern Mediterranean

Edited by Natalia Ribas-Mateos

Confronting questions of globalization, mobilities and space in the Mediterranean, and more specifically in the eastern Mediterranean, this book introduces a new type of complexity and ambiguity to the study of the global. In this theoretical frame an increasingly urban articulation of global logics and struggles, and an escalating use of urban space to make political claims, not only by citizens but also by foreigners, can be found. By emphasizing the interplay between global, regional and local phenomena, the book examines new forms and conditions, such as the transformation of borders, the reconfiguration of transnational communities, the agency of transnational families, new mobilities and diasporas, and transnational networks of humanitarian response.

Chapter 1: Eastern Mediterranean mobilities after the Arab Spring: transformations over time or sudden change?

Natalia Ribas-Mateos

Subjects: geography, human geography, population studies, politics and public policy, migration, social policy and sociology, migration, urban and regional studies, migration


This chapter examines the tangled question of continuity and change from the point of view of the observance of mobility. The diverse changes in Mediterranean mobility since the upheavals of January 2011 constitute a topic worthy of particular attention. However, an effort has to be made to comprehend the transformed understandings of continuity and change, which are sometimes found in sharp opposition to each other but which also find connections and relations between each other. This work brings at least five different questions together in dialogue: (1) the use of categories. Can the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘irregular migrant’ continue to be used as they were in the past? Globalization studies have suggested new challenges regarding the blurring of such categories. Agamben (1995) has also worked on differentiating the classic idea of the refugee from the question of human rights; (2) forms of continuity. Authors like de Hass and Sigona (2012) talk about a continuity: ‘it is rather unlikely that the revolutions will dramatically change long-term migration patterns’; (3) challenging borders. Authors working on EU borders have identified a rupture in how the Arab Spring has forced the regulation parameters of the EU’s internal borders to change (see, for example, the various programmes in Italy after the Tunisian upheaval); (4) forms of cross-border circulation. Authors working on the Syrian humanitarian crisis have shown how cross-border circulation enhances new humanitarian structure models, especially concerning Turkish borders; and (5) re-scaling. Do cities like Istanbul conform to the kaleidoscope of these post-2011 changes and continuities?