Motion Squared: A Second look at the Concept of Social Navigation

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Serving as a metaphor for practice, the concept of navigation has become increasingly popular in anthropological theory. The concept seems to have almost sneaked its way into our analytical vocabulary; it is used when referring to how people act in difficult or uncertain circumstances and in describing how they disentangle themselves from confining structures, plot their escape and move towards better positions. Yet, despite its increasing popularity, the concept is most often used in an unspecified or misunderstood manner — it is generally not well defined! Building on prolonged fieldwork in Bissau, West Africa, and with West African migrants in Lisbon, Portugal, I take a second look at the concept of social navigation, clarifying the notion as an analytical optic, discarding the most unfortunate misconceptualizations of the term and elucidating the contribution that the concept can make to our understanding of the way people act in their social worlds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnthropological Theory
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)419-438
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ID: 16247326