Informality on Wheels: Informal Automobilities Beyond National Boundaries




informality, mobilities, automobility system, informal automobilities, regimes of mobility, transnationalism


This article unpacks informal practices related to modernity’s quintessential mobility machine: the car. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among low-wage Romanian immigrants in Spain who maintain transnational connections with their regions of origin in Romania, this paper addresses the role of the automobile system and of informal practices in migrants’ daily work and life mobilities. I contend that informal automobilities are a set of livelihood strategies and infrapolitical activities that use cars to confront the constraints of geographical and social mobility regimes. The result is a heavily controlled car system that also provides the flexibility to move informally between formal rules in order to make a living. The transnational approach allows us to go beyond earlier accounts of informality that focus on the local and/or national scale by treating the car as a translocal object embedded socially and economically in transnational relationships. These conclusions contribute to increasing our knowledge of post-structural informality and mobility, but they are also relevant to understanding how a future carless or post-car world would impact on the populations that need, or exploit, the automobile system to survive and would oppose unequal mobility regimes.




How to Cite

Fradejas-García, I. (2021). Informality on Wheels: Informal Automobilities Beyond National Boundaries. Migration Letters, 18(2), 149–163.