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Title: Imaginations, desires and fantasies of togetherness : the negotiation of relationships through digital visiting friends and relatives mobilities
Author: Humbracht, Michael A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 5606
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2018
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While research into different forms of migrant co-presence has grown across mobilities, tourism and migration studies, conceptualization of the social relations underpinning co-presence has been underdeveloped. While the literature thus far has been significant, because analysis has been somewhat over-determined by binary thinking of tradition versus loss, and grounded in difference, conceptualization has been rather de-attached from the everyday lives of informants. Physical and digital VFR (visiting friends and relatives) have been viewed through a continuum – on one side there is a rosy, unshaken view of the social that has privileged ethnic norms and analytical separations of kinship and friendship and moral and market relations. On the other, more pessimistic side, the social is equated to high reflexivity, individualization and market influence, resulting in the dissolution of traditional kin and kith obligations and reinforcing analytical divisions of co-presence as divided between a consumer oriented affluent north and un-reflexive ethnic south. The middle ground, while highly adept, nonetheless offers a sort of cheery pessimism that tends to implicitly confirm individualization while also suggesting informants partly succumb to normative principles. This thesis moves away from the moral and instead focuses on the relational ethics of digital and physical co-presence within the trans-local personal communities of highly skilled Italian migrants in London. This thesis employs a multi-sited ethnography, drawing from 41 interviews carried out with migrants in London and with their friends and family abroad. The thesis finds informants are not necessarily guided by unconscious ethno-national normativity or seeking to destroy tradition but that migration and tourism are modes of care for the self used to re-imagine selves and socialites within intersecting life course moments that fosters situated forms of obligation. With some relationships, co-presence is driven by a fantasy of wholeness, a shared imagined and affective optimism for solid intimacy that drives the trans-local co-development of life-projects, leading to a common sense of belonging articulated through co-embodied rhythms of ICTs and VFR. With other relationships, the fantasy turns to cruel optimism - rhythms of ICTs and VFR simultaneously construct hope for solid intimacy while continually highlighting divergent life courses and developing a sense of un-belonging. Lastly, the thesis equates responsibility to temperature, as a by-product of friction, to help highlight how the production and management of friction is crucial to understanding the ontological politics and relational ethics that heats and sustains some relations while cooling others. The study demonstrates that globalization and mobility do not simply concern outside forces articulating various degrees of stability and loss to ethno-national tradition but that social and cultural change are also generated from the inter-subjective imaginations, fantasies and desires of individual migrant/non-migrant subjects attempting to re-envision togetherness within particular life course moments.
Supervisor: Cohen, Scott Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available