Exploring the Mobile Self: Shifting from Monolithic Categorisation to Dynamic Identifications

Kerstin Martel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

30 Downloads (Pure)


When planning to investigate the topic of individual identities through empirical research, a very extensive choice of conceptual and theoretical underpinnings is available. Multiple academic debates in the social sciences and humanities provide distinct perspectives, which sometimes complement each other, but which can as well seem contradictory. Therefore, the specific circumstances, such as those that individuals face when frequently moving in-between places and cultural settings, or across political, institutional and occupational boundaries, require attention when designing ‘identity research’. It appears crucial to account for mobile ontologies, i.e., ways of being in the world, which go beyond established life modes in sedentary societies. For example: certain social identity categories, such as social class, gender or profession that are salient in one very particular location, become more or less relevant for the international mover over time, they transform their meaning according to the changing context and to evolving individual situations. Lived experiences, specific events and turning points throughout a life course, such as separations, encounters or professional achievements, become most significant in individual narratives, whereas certain externally ascribed categorizations might fade. Therefore, this chapter draws attention to specificities when studying identities of ‘movers’, by confronting conceptual framings with paradigmatic changes that are supported by the mobilities turn. Whilst building on previous scholarly discussions, I propose to nurture emic research perspectives in the future, in order to prevent reductionist and essentializing categorizations of individuals. The here proposed dynamic and multidirectional notion of mobile identifications allows for a more thorough understanding of non-linear, non-sedentary individual life courses and, thus, for the appreciation of mobile ontologies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWanderlust to Wonderland? : Exploring Key Issues in Expatriate Careers: Individual, Organizational, and Societal Insights
EditorsMaike Andresen, Silke Anger, Akram Al Ariss, Cordula Barzantny, Herbert Brücker, Michael Dickmann, Liisa Mäkelä, Sara Louise Muhr, Thomas Saalfeld, Vesa Suutari, Mette Zølner
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationBamberg
PublisherUniversity of Bamberg Press
Publication date17 Oct 2022
ISBN (Print)9783863098728
ISBN (Electronic)9783863098735
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2022
SeriesPersonalmanagement und Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie

Cite this