On Being Stuck in Bengal: Immobility in the ‘age of migration’
Modern Asian Studies
Cambridge University Press
MetadataShow full item record
Chatterji, J. (2017). On Being Stuck in Bengal: Immobility in the ‘age of migration’. Modern Asian Studies, 51 (2), 511-541. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X16000664
Immobility raises awkward questions for theorists of migration. From their standpoint, migration is unusual behaviour that requires explanation. Its obverse—staying in place—is seen as an ‘obvious’ state of affairs that calls for no explanation. Yet assumptions about the ordinariness of immobility are insecure. For one thing, we know a great deal more about the mobile societies of early modern Asia; for another, Asian mobility in the era of high imperialism is much better understood. Yet despite these cumulative gains in our understanding of the scale of mobility in early-modern and modern Asia, and its acceleration in ‘the age of migration’, immobility continues to be seen as the ‘obvious’ state of affairs. This article suggests some preliminary answers to ‘the immobility paradox’, based on a study of the greater Bengal region. By analysing the impact of the intensifying links, in the late colonial era, between Bengal and the global economy, it shows that this varied widely for different people, in ways that had a profound bearing on their capacity to move. The article develops the notion of ‘deficits’ which worked to inhibit the mobility of particular groups and individuals. Physical frailty and obligations of care, it shows, were crucial factors in shaping immobility. Relations of gender and generation, and the inequalities embedded in these relations, produced ‘overabundances’—of obligations to people and places—that tied certain people down. Finally, it hints at the reasons why, and the ways in which, stayers-on have grown poorer.
This article draws on research supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (UK).
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X16000664
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/260411