Martin Hultman: The nomads who does not move

As scientists we are today pushed towards traveling. Meeting peers at conferences, having a postdoc period in another country far away or even do field work abroad are judged as part of becoming a successful scientist. The evaluation system regarding new positions is structured so that publications in English and experiences of networking abroad are encouraged. There are plenty of funding opportunities as guest researcher or postdoc to search for if you are prepared to go abroad for a while. Since the world economy is to 85% based on fossil fuels , the amount of possible carbon dioxide emission stored for us in the funding schemes of VR, Formas, RJ, Forte, STINT is huge.

This development is of course great in many ways. You get to share knowledge with scholars researching similar issues as yourselves, your own results get a potential larger audience and you get personal bonds to places and people all over the world. I have done it myself and am in this sense an exemplary scholar in this new regime of globalised scholarship based on a westernized minority people high emitting travel patterns. As a nomad guest researcher three times in New Zealand and frequently participant in European and global conferences as well as organizer of international meetings, I have played the game to be played. I admit I have enjoyed it. Very much. And I will probably have/want to do it again in the future. Even though I have been aware of all the problems with my consumption patterns before, it has not become personal for real until lately.

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After finalizing the book Discourses of Global Climate Change there is something in my body that does not want to go away. It is a combination of awareness and inaction both personally as well as broadly politically. First of all it is about awareness. What we saw during the period 2006-2009 was that virtually everybody in Sweden, and globally, got aware of the consequences of emissions from fossil fuels as well as the consequences of climate change. We all live with that knowledge of the possible future apocalypse for societies as we know them. Simultaneously those who are responsible for this approaching catastrophe do very little, almost nothing, about it. This inaction, or conservative action which we call it, do have such a strong foothold in our industrial modern societies making it almost impossible to see the paths needed to be taken. This is what makes me feel uneasy and ashamed in situations never connected to these feelings before.

Lately I have been discussing awareness and conservative action with family, friends and colleagues in connection to travels. It creates awkward situations since we in my middle-class community are so used to creating ourselves with plans for, or memories of, travels far away from Sweden. It seems not possible to talk about the emissions from travels at the same time as the beautiful beaches of Thailand are enacted. Talking about travel patterns as something which destroys our planet is a “no-go” area, a taboo in our high-energy consuming society (thank you very much Josefin Wangel, a very short but rewarding trip from Linköping, for suggesting that concept in relation to travels!).

But perhaps we have got it totally wrong? Maybe we are so stuck with the image of traveling as a practise that we do with a car, train or airplane to faraway places that we have lost the whole sense of actually travelling? Might travel become something else also for us the minority high-energy consuming societies from now on?

Maybe we need to understand movement and travels in a much more relational way, then we can experience travels and moves all around and within us. Travels would no longer be something that take us from one point to the other, but something continuously ongoing with us. The true nomad might not be defined by movement at all, maybe s/he is instead to be understood, as Deleuze and Guattari says in A Thousand Plateus, as a territorial principle:

“The nomad distributes himself in a smooth space […] the nomad is on the contrary he who does not move” (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004:420).

/Martin Hultman

/Martin Hultman

One thought on “Martin Hultman: The nomads who does not move

  1. David Nilsson

    Yes it is fascinating how we today “create ourselves plans for, or memories of, travels far away”. Spot on! And not just in ordinary middle class communities, academics are pretty good at constructing our identities and professional reputations through exactly the same kind of attributes, although, instead of beaches in Thailand it’s conferences in US or field work in Uganda. Such identities or images of the self are however not created on individual basis. Aren’t we constructing them together in our communities? The question then – when we feel that the behaviour and attributes expected from us is not hamonizing with our scientific or moral convictions – is how we can deconstruct these images. Is there a way to break out of Bordieu’s social force fields of consumption and community markers? I mean, developing a new ethics and value set in academia is not something we do just like that… But talking about it is a good start, right? If you say something over and over, you’re bound to start believing it, they say…

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