Accommodating (im)mobility. Spaces of accommodation as hubs between global migration flows and local urban life, 1850-1930. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2024


Both in contemporary literature as in historical research, the arrival of travellers and migrants in a city has been described as a critical moment. A lack of knowledge about the urban context they arrived in as well as a lack of trustworthy information made them vulnerable for abuse. This project will focus on the arrival in the city as a crucial moment for newcomers to orientate into the urban fabric and on spaces of accommodation as crucial locations of encounter for different actors intending to channel mobile people. This project will study spaces of accommodation as key hub in the infrastructural complexes of arrival within the urban environment, offering space where people got connected and could decide to settle, find a job, or to prepare for onward travel, or conversely, where people were deceived and hindered in aspired mobility trajectories. It will reveal how these places functioned as funnel places between the global flows and the local urban environment, where the practices of and conflicts over the movement of people were constructed and contested, impacting both upon the mobility trajectories of people and the socio-spatial development of the city. The objectives are to explore 1) the changing roles and functions of these spaces of accommodation within the complex arrival infrastructure and the urban environment in the period 1850-1930, characterised by a strong increase and democratisation of migration and mobility, but also by growing concerns and moral panics about mobile people; 2) and to identify causes of these evolutions by emphasizing changing interactions but also tensions and conflicts between different actors and organisations trying to influence mobility patterns. Its results will not only enhance our understanding in the ways these spaces of accommodation were used to enhance or obstruct mobility. It will also bring a fluid population into the picture which has remained concealed by the dominant view on migrants who settled and were registered, as well as bridge the gap between migration, mobility, and urban studies.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project