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Friday 6 November, 4.30 pm

‘We were ready to leave’: Imagination, Migration & Cosmopolitanism between Uttar Pradesh (India) & the Gulf

Tom Chambers, Sussex University

This event is free, but places must be booked. To book tickets please go to: http://tomchambers.eventbrite.co.uk

This article examines migration and imagination in the lives of woodworkers from the North Indian city of Saharanpur.  For these craftsmen, movement, migration and connectedness are a part of everyday life.  In spite of migration from Saharanpur only beginning in earnest in the early 1980s, craft workers now access networks that extend to every corner of India and to the Arabian Gulf.  The rapid formation of these networks and the ease with which craft workers transitioned into being a migrant community creates a different image of migration to accounts where it is seen as a ‘disjuncture’ or ‘rupture’.  Imaginaries where shaped through a variety of factors including prior histories of migration held in the collective memory, a religiosity which created a sense of connection to other places and the importance given to holders of knowledge of unknown localities.  Within this context, this paper also engages with broader discussions on the enabling power of migration and increased connectedness.   Here the emphasis falls on the power of a social imagination shaped through an emerging cosmopolitanism with the potential for challenging established hierarchies and creating conditions capable of fostering new subjectivities.  Whilst there are potentialities, the paper challenges the notion that increased connectedness automatically leads to mobilising and enabling possibilities.  Instead, the subjectivities and connections experienced by migrants from Saharanpur remain relatively enclaved within a familiar pattern of social relations.  Whilst remaining critical of oft over emphasised claims of a new cosmopolitanism, in concluding the paper asks that consideration be given to the ‘crafted’ nature of migrant lives.  Drawing on Marx’s distinction between worker bees and architects it is proposed that the very process of imagining migration separates it from a simple alienable pursuit.  Constraints, structural conditions, subverted global flows and regulatory frames all play a part, yet the ways in which migration allows individuals and groups to imagine ‘something more’ than the everyday, hints at a potential to imagine ‘even more’ even if this is not always the outcome.