People have always moved — whether through desire or through violence.
Scholars have also written about these movements for a long time and from
diverse perspectives. What is interesting is that now particular theoretical
shifts have arranged themselves into new conjunctures that give these
phenomena greater analytic visibility than ever before. Thus we . . . have old
questions, but also something very new. — liisa malkki
“Of all the speciﬁc liberties which may come into our minds when we hear
the word ‘freedom,’ ” Hannah Arendt once argued, “freedom of movement
is historically the oldest and also the most elementary. Being able to depart
for where we will is the prototypical gesture of being free, as limitation of
freedom of movement has from time immemorial been the precondition for
enslavement.”1 Accordingly, Arendt claims that freedom of movement is “the
substance and meaning of all things political.”2 This book aims at unpacking
this claim by proposing an inquiry into the politics of motion.
We live within political systems that have an increasing interest in physi-
cal movement, or perhaps just an increasingly effective control over it. These
systems are, to a great degree, organized around both the desire and ability to
determine who is permitted to enter what sorts of spaces: Who may enter a
national state, a gated community, a particular street, a playground? Who is
permitted to reside in such spaces and for how long? The “guest” worker, for
example, may stay, but only on the condition that she will leave when no longer
needed. The “undocumented” immigrant, however, who is effectively in the
same social position, is always already “illegal” by her very act of staying.
These political systems also operate by determining who (or what) should be
contained and constrained: young African American men in prisons, asylum
seekers in detention camps, demonstrations within tightly policed enclaves.
These political systems determine for which circulating good (or capital) a tax