Nowadays “mobility” is a word that cuts across all social fields. It is often associated with issues pertaining to sustainable development as well. However, this term or notion seems to be such an obvious keyword that only few works illustrate its meaning. In fact, research today addresses its practices more than its values. And yet, how can we apprehend spatial practices without grasping what mobility means to the planners and architects of our sites who evoke it, to their residents, migrants and/or users of informal or formal technical infrastructures which support and frame our daily movements, to the scientists who search how to analyse it, to the politicians that erect it as a future perspective, to the economic actors that consider it indispensable, and so on. What are the other dimensions of mobility associated to its geographical meaning ? What can be the consequences of the observed differences between social groups (as applied to the classical model of differences in significance of a building between its architects and its users), that it be socially related or spatially related? This symposium would fall under theme 4 « Communities resilience and socio-cultural change : transition from traditional to modern cities ».

Thierry Ramadier, Ph.D., Chairman of th symposium

, Ph.D.


Mobility is a word that appeared recently in social sciences. Before one could hear about mobility, the terms of movement or transport were preferred and even before that the word flow. Each of them evoke specific conceptions of spatial practices and eventually correspond to research stages of what we now call mobility. The first stage, all the way from the beginning of the 1930s to the middle of the 70s, is concerned with movement so as to facilitate it. It led to the engineering construct of the notion of movement flow. The period that followed runs to the middle of the 1990s and conceives mobility as an individual need: it is a period during which research obeys the injunctions of mobility. The final period, still running, attempts to think the ease with which one moves, rather than thinking such as during the first period, i.e the movement to facilitate it. Henceforth, putting the investigations of mobility in a sociological perspective gets accentuated, thereby making the notions of skill and even capital become central to think it. The description of these three research stages on mobility enables to bring forward the idea according to which, if mobility was originally a term used to evoke a change in one’s social conditions of existence (social mobility), it is nowadays, however, progressively shifting towards meanings articulated around the upholding of social conditions of existence.


Borja, S, Courty, G., Ramadier, T., 2012, « La mobilité serait un capital : doutes et interrogations », In V. Kaufmann (Dir.), Controverse Scientifique sur le capital de mobilité, Forum de la vie Mobile, en ligne

Cullen, I., Godson, V., 1975, « Urban networks: The structure of activity patterns », Progress in Planning, 4 (1), 1–96.

Eno, W. P., 1939, The Story of Highway Traffic Control, Westport, Eno Foundation for Highway Traffic Control.

Sorokin, P., 1927, Social mobility, New York, Harper and Brothers.

, Ph.D. candidate


This communication proposes to explore the uses of the category of « mobility » in urban policies. The hypothesis is that mobility provides a coherent and valid discursive format in the management of cities and their image. Indeed, all the way from cities being subsumed as « a right », portrayed as « accessible », « concerted » or « sustainable » spaces, only a small step remains for this new leitmotiv to bring forward the principles of a « mobile city ». The term of mobility can today be considered as an endoxa, that is a term valid for everyone, used everywhere. Its common use, however, needs to be brought back to its underlying discourse so as to grasp that, on the one hand, it assumes diverse realities, and on the other hand, its adoption conceals certain transformations in urban policies.

To what extent does mobility permeate, and from what do its reference and establishment stem ? Is it just a matter of supports within the frame of a certain urban and political (act of) communication ? Through the summing up of its occurrences, its varied uses in legislative texts, ministerial guidelines, planning and urban documents and interviews with elected representatives, we are going to show what is implied by mobility, what organises its logic and what underpins its beliefs and values. By shedding light on these aspects, one sees how mobility can be envisaged as a formula whose formal properties of uses bring it back to a « set of formulations which, being used at a certain time in a given public space, crystallize political and social stakes that these expressions contribute to construct » (Krieg-Planque Alice, 2009, p.7). Thereby, this formula eventually masks the interests that inherently support it, as well as its specific and differentiated stakes. Consequently, where public action is at crossroads with transport policy and city government (Offner, 1992; Lorrain, 1998; Le Galès, 2003; Pinson, 2009), mobility constitutes a formula that accounts for transformations in political concern of the city ; a space whose designation has deflected to the urban.


Krieg-Planque, A., 2009, La notion de "formule" en analyse du discours. Cadre théorique et méthodologique, Besançon, PUFC (coll. Annales littéraires).

Le Galès, P., 2003, Le retour des villes européennes, Sociétés urbaines, mondialisation, gouvernement et gouvernances, Paris, Science Po., 2003.

Lorrain G., 1998, « Gouverner, administrer, réguler », Les Annales de la recherche urbaine, n°80-81, pp.85-92 ;

Offner J-M., 1992, « Les effets structurants du transport : mythe politique, mystification scientifique », L'Espace géographique, 3, 233-240.

Pinson Gilles, 2009, Gouverner la ville par projet. Urbanisme et gouvernance des villes européennes, Paris, Presses de Science Po.

, Ph.D.


Today the place of children in the city and their relationships to space are more and more apprenhended within the notion of « mobility ». This one is more than a key notion, it is also a paradigmatic frame in numerous disciplinaries. In this context, we will focus the presentation on the child’s development and more specically on the notion of autonomy, which is a fundamental process in the children’s development, mainly in their relationship to environment. The place and the challenges of this concept in the understanding of mobility will be observed and discussed through the co-evolution of scientific research and societal problematics. In order to show up and discuss some hidden meanings and challenges related to children’s mobility, we firstly present (from scientific littérature) how scientific problematics on children’s mobility has advanced since those thirty years (i.e. from urban activity, to independant activity and active or healthy behaviors). Thus, we will show how spatial and individual dimensions can be sometimes fostered to the detriment of temporal and social questions.

Secondly, relying on data stemming from our research works, the concept of autonomy will

be revisited by 1/questioning the hidden meanings and values of children’s mobility in parents’ representation (the norms associated to children’s independant travels ; the meaning of time-sharing in parental organisation, etc.) ; 2/showing how children’s travels can acquire some functions (such as the function of shield against the « risk » of social mixity that obliges to include a geographical question which is often neglected or studied independantly, that is to say, the context of the bypass of map of school catchment area) 3/questioning the place and meanings of autonomy in the contempory spatial and social device of walking school bus.

These several lines of discussion should allow to enlarge the problematic of children’s mobility by articulating the various levels of stakes, taking into account as much familiy questions as those of children’s development. Links which are fundamental in the problematic of autonomy.

, Ph.D. candidate

, Ph. D.


Mobilities give greater scales to metropolitan residential territories, where “home” can both acquire and keep meanings in a wide place in movements. Globalization pushes and transposes these mobilities beyond borders, where “home”, in the context of migration, is then rebuilt or transposed into socio-spatial environment for short or longer terms. Especially addressed in a local context, how “home” evolves in terms of meanings and how residential experiences are transforming in the context of large spatial and social distances? This communication questions the capacity of replacement for individuals in societies created from nomadic individuals (Radkowsky 2002), where mobility uses contribute to polytopic lifestyles (Stock 2007) and reveal, at the same time, both social and spatial identities that are complex and relative in terms of geographies (Ramadier Depeau 2011).

More specifically, this paper outlines preliminary results of an exploratory research conducted in the Greater Montréal (Québec, Canada). The migration projects of 10 individuals are exposed in order to place both the theoretical and methodological bases of a wider research. This work is based on socio-anthropological interviews with migrants aged between 24 and 45 years and established in Montréal for at least three years. The experience of migration has been analyzed in four stages: 1) Situation before migration; 2) Arrival in Montréal; 3) Residential establishment; 4) Current situation. The methodology combines both objective (mapping successive action spaces) and subjective (narrative of the migration project) dimensions of home and mobility-migration.

With a combined “comprehensive and genealogic” approach (Cailly 2007), we examined the meanings of “home” by questioning the previous residential locations, related mobility uses, and the perceptions of cultural difference and relationship to borders. Continuities and ruptures occurring in the relationship between individual and his environment during the migration process were analyzed to explore the hypothesis of “home plasticity”. This involves the individual ability to mobilize meanings of “home” as resources to adapt to new environments in order to both participate in “home” environment production and to act as support to mobility-migration coherence. These preliminary observations are also feeding two other assumptions in connection with the figure of migrant as “cultural mediator” (Villanova 2007): the mobility-migration as a process of individualization as well as the relationship to oneself; the experiences and the difficulties of socialization (Boissonnade 2007) in the context of urban cosmopolitanism.


Cailly L., 2007, « Capital spatial, stratégies résidentielles et processus d'individualisation », Annales de Géographie, 654.

Boissonade J., 2007/3-4, « Processus d'identification territorialisés, des compétences situationnelles face aux épreuves », L'homme et la société, 165-166.

Martouzet D., 2007, « Le rapport affectif à la ville : premiers résultats », In Thierry Paquot T. et M. Lussault et C. Younès, Habiter, le propre de l'humain, Villes, territoires et philosophie, La Découverte.

Ramadier T. et Depeau S., 2011, Se déplacer pour se situer, PUR.

Radkowsky (de) G-H., 2002, Anthropologie de l'habiter, vers le nomadisme, PUF.

Stock M., 2007, « Théorie de l'habiter, questionnements », In Thierry Paquot T. et M. Lussault et C. Younès, Habiter, le propre de l'humain, Villes, territoires et philosophie, La Découverte.

Villanova (de) R., 2007, « Espace de l'entre-deux ou comment la mobilité des immigrés recrée du territoire », L'homme et la société, 3-4, 165-166.