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The theory of mobilities

A Critical Analysis

Maximiliano E. Korstanje

Although over the recent years, the theory of mobilities has gained the attention of many disciplines and theorists, there are some points that merit further attention. John Urry, who played a crucial role in contemporary sociology as an authorative voice, envisaged an all-encompassing theory that explained our inclination toward velocity and the rise of the travel and tourism industry. This chapter rests on the conceptual limitations of Urry’s development, laying the foundations toward a new sociology of immobility for decades to come.

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The manipulation of emotions

A Critical Analysis

Maximiliano E. Korstanje

It is evident that the world changed after 9/11 and the attacks on the World Trade Center. This traumatic event inaugurated a new time oriented to manipulate emotions of lay citizens into finely-ingrained narratives in order for some economic policies to be widely accepted by society. The fact is that one of the main limitations in confirming that emotions are politically used in forms of discourses to indoctrinate citizens’ minds consists in resolving the hot debate revolving around emotions-as-basic dispositions or emotions-as-social construes. While the former emphasize on emotions as basic dispositions developed to ensure the survival of an organism, assuming serious obstacles for them to be manipulated, the latter signals to emotions as social constructs which are culturally molded by the elite to keep their privileged position. In this vein, Marxism and the early text of Marx have much to say. We unearth Marxism from the dust of oblivion to alternate a frank dialogue with cultural studies.

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Maximiliano E. Korstanje

In this section the author discusses the role of hospitality as a configurator of nationhood and the nation-state. Here two important assumptions should be discussed. At a first glimpse, we detail how the nation-state disposed of disciplinary mechanisms to control nomadic groups. The imposition of national borders were confronted with old lifestyles which were proper for aboriginals. The arrival of nationhood ran in parallel with the acceptance of hospitality as a mainstream cultural value of cosmopolitan societies. Second, the idea of free transit, where the theory of mobilities begins is not new. It comes from the political usages of hospitality to discipline aborigines in the conquest of the Americas. As Anthony Pagden has amply validated, the conquest of the Americas was ideologically legitimated by the tergiversations of two significant theories coined in Europe; the thesis of free transit and the Western model of hospitality.

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Maximiliano E. Korstanje

Undoubtedly, there is no better example of how modern mobilities work than the plot of the film The Island which stars Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor. The sense of risk opens the doors for an imposed fear, which draws the borders between safety and the external world. In the Island all needs are met, but a dark mystery remains. Some residents get to leave the compound to go to the Island, a utopian paradise. Those who get to go are selected through a lottery. In fact, they are sent for organ harvesting, surrogate motherhood, or other biological uses. As a projected paradise, the figure of “island” plays a crucial role not only in controlling the clones and undermining the possibilities of potential revolts, but it also delineates the borders between first class citizens and an underclass formed by subhumans. This project is managed by Dr Bernard Merrick who combines the most efficient techniques of psychiatry to keep conflicts under control and the residents in ignorance. Clones who gain the draw are not only special but emulate the dichotomy between hospitality versus hostility. Although clones do not have problems fulfilling their basic needs, there is a strong and rigid circle of control of the way people interact with each other. Being selected to travel to the Island is equaled to the state of exception people experience when surviving a traumatic experience.

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Leashing the dogs of war

A Critical Analysis

Maximiliano E. Korstanje

To some extent, we feel astonished when we watch ISIS jihadists destroying ancient museums in Mosul, although we remain indifferent to the loss of human lives in Syria. This dichotomy exhibits that we over-valorize heritage and cultural consumption over other cultural values. This chapter reveals that one of the successes of capitalist society imposed as the only available economic system was related to perpetuating the ideological core of colonialism. In so doing, we must confess that heritage and the colonial state were inextricably intertwined. Today, the notion of heritage expresses a repressed violence which is waiting to be liberated. At the time heritage and museums cultivated the spirit of thinkers, writers or even students, less attention was paid to their intersections with warfare. What is important to discuss is the role played by museums in such a process. This chapter reminds us of the inter-link between wars and authenticity –heritage – in a way that defies the current specialized literature. Once conflict remains dormant, the emotional activity of museums is lower than at times when war effaced entire cities, bringing calamities, hunger and suffering. Anthropologically speaking, museums enhance social cohesion, but in-group loyalty which, if not correctly regulated, may lead to pathological forms of chauvinism and ethnocentrism

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The life of Mary and Roger

A Critical Analysis

Maximiliano E. Korstanje

This chapter was written in an informal way, likely spotlighting my own ethnographies in Bragado City, a small city located in Provincial de Buenos Aires, Argentina. It describes the case of Roger and Mary, an elderly couple who made the decision to purchase a car. Although they gained in mobilities with the passing of years, they were unable to pay the insurance and the costs of maintenance. Against this backdrop, this case study reveals the dichotomies and problems of mobilities applied beyond the boundaries of the First World. The notion of risk plays a vital role configuring not only the social background of capitalist societies but serves as an ideological narrative to discipline the global south.

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Maximiliano E. Korstanje

Throughout modern global societies there is a propensity to stimulate sensations, emotions and consumption of immediate experiences, which pave the way for the rise of a culture of spectacle that subordinates spectatorship as never before. Many cultural theorists stress on the advance of a new cosmology where the present is not only subordinated to the future, but also emotions are politically manipulated to achieve broader consensus in the citizenry. This is why it is necessary to discuss a new epistemology which, based on emotions, breaks the center–periphery dependency. Over years science has experimented with the aim of creating a superman, stimulating the performance of the brain at the time, the adoption of disciplinary mechanisms tended to dispose from the body for immediate here-and-now experiences. Most certainly, the liberal condition of reproduction and consumption allowed by the expansion of capital constrained human contact to the keyboard of a personal computer. Digital technology has not only created a pseudo-reality where consumers may freely move but also the geographical borders of societies have been redrawn. This particularly means some substantial shifts in the way human relations are forged, the ways travels are planned and of course the role of alterity in urban contexts.

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Maximiliano E. Korstanje

The concluding section synthesizes part of the common-thread of the argument but at the same time it delves into the theory of non-places. In dialogue with Marc Augé, we held the thesis that far from being non-places, airports should be defined as spaces of discipline where the cultural values of society are endorsed to the newcomers. At airports, nation-states scrutinize, validate and offer a constrained sense of hospitality only to those strangers that can pay for it. In sum, we nod in agreement with other scholars that airports are spaces of discipline that allow the host society to communicate its main cultural values to incomers, such as tourists and migrants. Passports and visas are issued on the basis of a global hierarchy of reciprocity too, which can attain negative dimensions, with some citizens being allowed to access any part of the world, while others suffer more restrictions in their movement.

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The Mobilities Paradox

A Critical Analysis

Maximiliano E. Korstanje

The theory of mobilities has gained great recognition and traction over recent decades, illustrating not only the influence of mobilities in daily life but also the rise and expansion of globalization worldwide. But what if this sense of mobilities is in fact an ideological bubble that provides the illusion of freedom whilst limiting our mobility or even keeping us immobile? This book reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the mobilities paradigm and in doing so constructs a bridge between Marxism and Cultural theory.