by Dr Isabel Hollis-Touré and Dr Kate Averis, editors of Exiles, Travellers and Vagabonds: Rethinking Mobility in Francophone Women’s Writing

Exiles, Travellers and Vagabonds emerged as a project from our shared academic and personal fascination for mobility. Throughout our careers, Kate Averis and I have both studied human mobility and partaken in it, often engaging in international travel to try and unite our professional lives with our personal ones. The contributors to this volume share our intrigue in the topic of mobility. Their research spans countries, continents and, especially, the literary works that cross between them, mapping out the lives of a complex array of multinational authors.

Our concern in this text is with women’s mobility. The topos that associates women with a fixed abode, attaches a symbolic femininity to visions of home and country, and situates language alongside motherhood, is disrupted by women’s transnational mobility. Displaced women are doubly ‘out of place’, not just as foreigners, challenging cultural structures, but also as women, challenging social structures.

In this volume we have gathered a spectrum of studies that transport us around the francophone world. This multifaceted exploration of women’s mobility opens up new questions in our understanding of the movement from place to place. Addressing the proximities and overlaps that exist between the experiences of women exiles, migrants, expatriates and travellers, the collected essays in this book seek to challenge the relevance or validity of such terms for conceptualising today’s complex patterns of transnational mobility and the gendered identities produced therein.

In researching this volume, we learnt that 48% of migrants globally are women (United Nations report, 2015). This figure seemed to unsettle the prevalent image of mobility as a male-dominated phenomenon. Indeed, it seemed to us that women’s place was often only evoked in order to attract empathy to the suffering of a particular group. We put this volume together in order to unravel the deceptive and heavily mediatised commonplaces around human, especially women’s, mobility, and offer a more nuanced panorama.

Isabel Hollis-Touré is Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, with research specialism is North African migration to France.

Kate Averis is Lecturer in French Studies at the University of London Institute in Paris.