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Cultures of Mobility in Europe (COME)

Past and Present Trajectories of Travelling Communities

"Every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States."
Charta of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Chapter V, Article 45 (2000/2009)

The interdisciplinary research group COME explores the politics, legal categorizations, conceptions, practices and experiences of im/mobilities in, to and out of Europe. By focusing on Roma and Yeniche as well as independent artists, street performers, alternative travellers and unauthorized migrants, COME empirically explores diverse, non-normative, mobile and translocal ways of life. Engaging extensive and versatile forms of im/mobility in the past as in the present, these social groups and professional milieus provide particularly rich insights for a differentiated understanding of im/mobility. Along with basic research, COME seeks to explore on an empirical basis the trajectories, worldviews and experiences in the everyday life of individuals and the processes of community and network formation under im/mobile circumstances. To overcome binary mobile vs. sedentary thinking, interactions, fields of negotiations and contact zones are taken into consideration in their complexity and dynamics. Taking such a vantage point does not only provide valuable insights concerning mobile groups and individuals. It also draws attention to im/mobility patterns of majority populations, mobility regimes and work-life arrangements as well as to emplacement and displacement processes. COME systematically employs translocally and transnationally oriented research approaches (including mobile methods and multi-sited ethnography), qualitative interviews and participatory methodology.

Directed by JProf. Dr. Anna Lipphardt, COME is funded by the Excellence Initiative and based at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology/Folkloristics of Freiburg University.

In addition to basic empirical research on specific mobile milieus and groups, COME contributes on a phenomenological and conceptual level to the analysis of mobile life-worlds and community/network formation under mobile circumstances. While the scholarship on highly mobile groups has tended to focus on rather recent, and rather privileged professional milieus, such as the so-called 'creative-class', IT specialists, or managers, COME focuses on milieus that have engaged in highly mobile ways of life and work long before the emergence of long-distance air travel and the internet. This allows not only for a stronger integration of a historical perspective but also for a critical analysis of social differentiations and power relations. Trying to think “society through a mobilities lens“ (J. Urry), the COME projects shed light onto the complex structural challenges that arise for societies around the world, and particularly in the EU, from the double-bind of increasing mobility and transnational interconnectedness on one side, and the continued cohesions of the nation state and sedentary majority populations on the other.

The COME projects focus on recent mobile phenomena. They are analyzed in the context of long-term historical developments and in regard to historical images and ideological constructions of mobility and sedentarism. The geo-political focus is on Europe, with particular attention to the EU's on-going inner consolidation, enlargement and border making processes.

The COME projects employ multi-sited ethnography (at different places) and/or mobile ethnography (by moving along), which allow to engage with the respective groups on their pathways and stations. They combine a wide range of qualitative methods, including participant observation, various forms of interviews, social cartographies, spatial, network and discourse analysis as well as visual methodologies. The individual research designs systematically integrate context analysis and multi-perspectivity. Specific attention is paid to participatory approaches and ethical issues, in particular in respect to vulnerable groups which often have a long history of being under suspicion, investigation and surveillance.

COME hosts interdisciplinary academic events, including workshops, symposiums and conference panels. For detailed information and CFPs see our event section.


Individual Projects

TRAVELLING ARTISTS – Anna Lipphardt (2011-)

The interdisciplinary project explores the interdependencies of mobility, specific artistic practices, the social and economic conditions for artists, professional networks, cultural policy and the art market across various artistic disciplines. Based on a combination of qualitative research and policy analysis, the project seeks to illuminate mobility-related challenges and opportunities artists face, and contributes on the empirical level to the growing research on mobility of highly-qualified professionals, to art research and to cultural policy analysis.

IL/LEGALIZING MOBILITY – Inga Schwarz (2014-)

Unauthorized migration requires extensive mobility practices, including reference points within countries of origin, transit countries and potential recipient countries. The project concentrates on these hypermobile practices of unauthorized migrants in Europe and their dependency on legal categorizations of migration. The different international and national legal spaces, as well as the differing normative orders of social networks that migrants pass through, will be taken into consideration. In addition to filling the gap of empirical work on unauthorized migration, the project aims to intersect mobility studies and legal anthropology.


Building on mobile and multi-local research in Western and Central Europe, the dissertation project explores mobile work-life arrangements of contemporary street performers and buskers. The study is empirically grounded on the ethnographic material, qualitative interviews and additional historical research on the professionalization of street performance since the late 1960s. On the theoretical level it is situated in between the academic fields of work culture studies, mobility studies and cultural theory, as it discusses ambivalences of work/non-work and mobility – often associated with emancipative ideas as well as imperative demands.


‘Nomadism’ and ‘wandering’ are some of the core elements of the set of representations that comprise „the Gypsy“ or „gypsiness“ . Roma and other so-called groups have had to deal with im/mobility issues since the adveniment of state formation, being direct witnesses and protagonists of im/mobility patterns and regimes. Through a multi-local ethnographic approach, this project focuses on the networks, relations, experiences and practices established by these populationswith a trans-Atlantic perspective , in the context of present day „globalization“ and trans-national enterprises.

ANNA & ANJA’s Project: MOVING TARGETS (2014-)


The explorative ethnographic case study focusses on the Yeniche minority in Germany and Switzerland. The project compares how external conditions influence the work-life-arrangements of the Yeniche. It focuses on the one hand on the political and legal conditions, in which especially two fields of practice will be considered – halting sites and the educational system for travellers. On the other hand the resulting mobile lifeworlds are of interest. This will be investigated by ethnographic research and policy analyses.


Alternative trailer communes formulated a counter concept to the hegemonial patterns of housing and living in the decade of late fordism. Travellers close to the new social movements perform a self-choosen lifestyle with immaginations lead by anti-bourgeois demarcation. A research in germany and france investigates transnational aspects of social movement as well as the practises of everyday-life, labour-aspects and biography.



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