Theories & Methods

(current convenors: LAURA LO PRESTI and Elena Canadelli)

The conception of the Mobility and the Humanities Department Project started from a preliminary survey of the Department’s scientific production in its multiple disciplinary variations.

Indeed, the project was essentially aimed not only at strengthening the dialogue between such different disciplinary perspectives, but also at concretely defining a transversal theme that could validly constitute a basis for stimulating an interdisciplinary dialogue.

The theme of mobility—or rather, mobilities—provided a potential common platform that allowed for the inclusion of increasingly more specific Department lines of research dedicated to circumscribed areas, namely the mobility of people/individuals/bodies; the mobility of objects/things/goods; the mobility of ideas/concepts/knowledge; the mobility of texts/books/representations.

Beyond these thematic framings, which are specifically considered by dedicated Department research groups (nodes), the project also includes a node working through a more transversal perspective on theories and methods for the mobility humanities.

Hannam, Sheller and Urry (2006) noted that the new mobilities paradigm was conceived as ‘an approach that offers both theoretical and methodological purchase on a wide range of urgent contemporary issues, as well as new perspectives on certain historical questions’. Recently, there has been a more explicit call for further movements across disciplinary boundaries and, in particular, for further connections to the historical, and more generally, humanistic domains. While we were designing our Project of Excellence in August 2017, Peter Merriman and Lynne Pearce published a special issue in the journal, Mobilities, establishing the subfield of mobility and the humanities.

With a distinctive reference to the connections between past and present times (from antiquity to contemporaneity), our project aims to contribute original work to this emerging area of interest, which is increasingly pursued by other researchers and research centres worldwide.

The Theories and Methods node aims to promote reflection on theoretical and methodological issues, with a particular reference to the most innovative component of the project, namely the combination of mobility studies and the humanities.

Hence, the need for investigating the implications of this innovative formulation also from an epistemological point of view, and through a discussion of methodological possibilities which have been already implemented or are to be experimented.

Therefore, the purpose of the Theories and Methods node is to feed a broad theoretical vision on the topic (e.g., varied conceptions of mobility; development of innovative interpretations; terminological experimentations), on the one hand, and to think in a comparative and transversal way about quantitative, qualitative and creative methodologies on the other.

Maintaining the ability to constantly reimagine the relations between mobility and the humanities, the node also intends to provide theoretical and application tools that are productive for more specific research areas, such as the mobility of people, objects, ideas and texts.