Moving to keep still: dynamic stillness in the digital and physical geographies of Beijing

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This paper contributes to the interdisciplinary fields of migration and mobilities through an examination of how translocal migrants engage in a variety of mobilities in order to practice long-term stillness in Beijing, China. To achieve this the paper proposes the concept of dynamic stillness, a stillness at one scale achieved through mobility at other scales. Dynamic stillness builds on other forms of (im)mobility, including turbulent stillness, waiting, suspension, immobility and emplacement. The concept returns agency to the non-mobile individual, agency that is lacking in other terms used to describe various (im)mobilities. This paper also conceptualizes mobility and stillness as taking place in both physical and digital sites, and it explores the role that digital sites, such as instant messaging groups, play in projects of stillness. Empirically, the paper explores unsuccessful attempts to displace translocal migrants engaged in food work in Beijing. While seemingly successful at first, when the analysis moves beyond simplistic snapshots of displacement and takes into account a variety of sites, scales and temporalities, the paper shows how dynamic stillness can be practiced at the scale of the sub-district by being mobile at other scales, including streets, neighbourhoods, across the nation state and to digital sites.




Morris, C. (2021). Moving to keep still: dynamic stillness in the digital and physical geographies of Beijing. Mobilities, 16(6), 935–950.

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