ICS Seminar Series - Collins, Centner, Ho and Robertson

Date: Thursday 17 April, 2014
Time: 2-3.30pm
Venue: EA.1.02, UWS Parramatta South campus

Elaine Ho, Francis Collins, Ryan Centner and Shanthi Robertson


As sites at the frontiers of social transformation, cities are often the backdrops for the cultural and political incorporation of newcomers into the nation-state, and into the transnational networks that link cities, regions and villages across national borders. Yet the mobilities of people across borders and regions are increasing heterogeneous, fluid and nonlinear, with the traditional boundaries used to categorize different types of mobility (e.g. transience, permanence, circularity, return) and different types of mobile subjects (e.g. skilled/unskilled, legal/illegal, settler/sojourner) becoming increasingly blurry. These mobilities become entangled in complex ways with processes of urban transformation. At the local level, encounters with ‘Otherness’ in urban space are mediated though the various transnational histories, cosmopolitan attitudes, and national identities of different mobile actors as well as through their race, gender, ethnicity and citizenship (Silvey and Lawson 1999). Moving into a new space means news modes of interaction and behaviour and new kinds of embodied experiences (Brickell and Datta 2012) as well as the formation of new social and political subjectivities and collectives, all of which transform the material and symbolic properties of urban space in diverse ways. At the level of political and policy narratives, the movement of people in and out of urban space is also closely linked to questions of urban growth, sustainability, cultural change, transnational investment and labour supply. Taking the urban as the space in which tensions between mobility, place and national belonging are most visibly and complexly played out, this roundtable looks critically at some of the theoretical and empirical intersections of urban theory, migration studies and citizenship studies. It asks:

  • what are the key research directions emerging from the intersections of these fields? 
  • What orthodoxies of each field need to be challenged for these intersections to be productive and to address emerging empirical questions around mobile subjects and the social, spatial and political relations of the city? 
  • How useful is the urban scale to understanding transformations in citizenship and belonging in an age of ‘super-diversity’ and ‘hyper-mobility’? 

The roundtable addresses these questions through a series of brief provocations from researchers working from different disciplinary perspectives and across different cities. 


Elaine Ho is Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore and her research addresses the way that citizenship, as a concept and in practice, is undergoing change as a result of transnational migration.

Francis Collins is a Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Auckland and his primary research interest is the intersection between migratory processes and the changing form and experiences of cities.

Ryan Centner is Assistant Professor of Urban Geography at the London School of Economics whose research investigates urban social change, transformation of the built environment, and their connections to larger political struggles.

Shanthi Robertson is a Career Development Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, and her research focuses on labour migration, transnationalism and urban transformation in the Asia-Pacific region.