Existential Kinetics of Movement and Stasis

Young Eritrean Refugees' Thwarted Hopes of Movement-through-Education


  • Annika Lems Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle


This article attempts to theorise people’s balancing acts between conditions of movement and stasis. Drawing on a radical empirical reading of one critical moment that occurred while conducting ethnographic research among Eritrean unaccompanied minors living in a Swiss educational institution, it thinks through what happens when this equilibrium is thrown out of whack and life’s flow is suddenly experienced as a standstill. By focusing on the experiences of one young man, it explores the importance of education as a vectorial metaphor for moving forward in one’s life. Zooming in on one critical moment in Abel’s life, it sheds light on what happens when hopes of ‘movement-through-education’ clash with the reality of a restrictive asylum system that curtails young refugees’ hopes for forward movement. By showing the dialectical ways mobility and immobility enter into and envelop each other, the article highlights how an existentially oriented ethnography can be utilised as an avenue for theorising migrant im/mobilities.

How to Cite

Lems, A. (2020). Existential Kinetics of Movement and Stasis: Young Eritrean Refugees’ Thwarted Hopes of Movement-through-Education. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 44(2), 59–80. https://doi.org/10.30676/jfas.v44i2.77715