Daily living and moving with the Pandemia menace in Portugal: a brake in mobility transition?

-by Catarina Sales Oliveira, University of Beira Interior, Portugal

Portugal also has declared emergency state. Until now we’ve been in alert with universities and schools closed and people advised to only do the strictly necessary dislocations. Flights to and from Europe are forbidden and the border with Spain has closed. In the islands, Madeira is fighting Lisbon’ decision of closing the airport.

At a first glance we can say that the two main restrictions are mobility and social proximity. But social proximity is still happening: family confinement increases physical proximity (bringing several problems); virtual connections are increasing with everybody using social networks and new phenomena as online classes and medical appointments.

Differently with mobility, there is no way of really substituting it. We are now much more immobile and, what is really odd in a society where mobility was mainly represented as good (Sales Oliveira, 2015), suddenly mobility is not desirable. This represents a huge and impressive change in an Europe were mobilities (Urry, 2007) were exalted and expected in almost its forms – from job mobility and students exchange to tourism – although definitely not for refugees and migrants (Czymara and Schmidt-Catran, 2017)

Cycling with my son yesterday we cross with some people in the streets also cycling or walking. We looked at each other recognizing the same will of moving while it is still possible, taking some fresh air and exercising. But at same time we all had some level of uncertain and perhaps guilt: this soft mobility is still a good mobility (Endres, Manderscheid and Mincke, 2016), healthy and sustainable as it was a month ago?

Bodies and minds are being forced to immobility, each day more at same the proportion the level of infected people is growing. Empty streets and buses. But looking to the national roads here in the inner country (Fundão, Portugal) at the end of the day you won’t notice, nothing different from weeks ago: people coming back home from their jobs.

So public transports are to avoid and we don’t dare and are forbidden of sharing space and to be in public and collective places. But to move by car is still allowed and felt as secure as inside you are protected from contamination. We can still drive.

By car we can go out!” Automobility as the only access to freedom of movements, to mobility in this time of war as some politicians are putting the question. So, for this very specific moment in Portugal automobility regained field and is curiously legitimated.


Czymara, C and Schmidt-Catran, A (2017) Refugees Unwelcome? Changes in the Public Acceptance of Immigrants and Refugees in Germany in the Course of Europe’s ‘Immigration Crisis’, European Sociological Review, 33: 735–751

Endres M, Manderscheid K and Mincke C (eds) (2016) The mobilities paradigm: Discourses and ideologies. Routledge

Sales Oliveira C (2015) (Auto) mobilities and social identities in Portugal. Sociologia: Problemas e Pra´ticas 77: 137–151.

Urry J (2007) Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Leave a Comment

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial
Follow by Email