Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

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Mobile Peoples: Transversal Configurations

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Abstract:  This essay is an attempt to think ‘mobile peoples’ as a political concept. I consider mobile peoples as a norm rather than an exception and as political subjects rather than subject peoples. After discussing the tension between ‘mobile’ and ‘peoples’, I draw on Ian Hacking’s historical ontology for understanding how a people comes to be. For understanding how the people comes to be, or rather, how the tension between a people that constitutes itself as a whole and those peoples that remain as residual parts, I draw on Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Rancière, and Ernesto Laclau as authors who identified this tension as a fundamental problem of ‘Western’ political thought. Yet, their inattention to territory draws me to James Scott whose work on early states challenges how we have come to understand the people as sedentary in the first place. His account of how ‘barbarians’ (mobile peoples) came to be seen as a threat to sedentary peoples enables us to understand that tension. Then a path opens toward thinking about mobile peoples as a political concept.

Keywords:  a people; mobile peoples; territory; the people; state



© Engin Isin. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.