chapter  1
16 Pages

Emotions and Human Mobility: Key Concerns

WithMaruška Svašek

This edited volume contributes to a growing field of interdisciplinary research that explores how emotional processes shape human mobility and vice versa. Recent research on the emotional dimensions of human mobility has covered a wide variety of topics,1

raising a number of significant questions. Fundamentally, how can we conceptualise emotions that are in essence both physical and metaphysical, to create a better understanding of human mobility? To what extent are the emotions of migrants influenced by structural constraints, for example by immigration policies or economic inequality? How do migrants interact emotionally with the people they meet in their adopted countries? To what extent do migrants stay attached to their homeland? How do migrant organisations provide emotional support for their clients, or increase their sense of belonging in their new, unfamiliar environment? What role do religious and educational institutions play in the emotional interactions both within and between migrant groups, or between migrants and locals? A few examples from my own fieldwork conducted in Northern Ireland help to

illustrate the power of emotional dynamics at play in migrant lives. The decision to emigrate can trigger very different feelings in those who have opted to leave and those who are left behind. Conflicting emotions, including excitement, anger, fear, guilt, hope and joy, can arise prior to leaving as demonstrated by the statement of a 23-yearold female Polish migrant worker whom I interviewed in Belfast in 2007:

[When I told my parents I wanted to move to Ireland] they were shocked and worried. Though I’m an adult they said I was too young. I just said ‘I’m going’. My mother tried to talk me out of it but my father and uncle said I should go because I could have a better life.