The Mobile Commons: Fleeing Ukraine

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 3
Words: 596
Reading time:
3 min

Those who find themselves on the move happen to create a whole new world. According to Papadopoulos and Tsianos (2013), this is a world of information and knowledge, a world of social relations and sharing of services, a world of sociability, unanimity, and mutual care (190). All of these are resources that people use, share, and to which maintenance and expansion they contribute. Migration, as per Papadopoulos and Tsianos (2013), is a process dependent on an array of people and things, and this dependence can only be regulated by way of reciprocity (190). For migrants, reciprocity between them provides greater access to mobility for bigger amounts of people. This reciprocity manifests itself in the form of the mobile commons, which, while being migrants’ form of political action, is non-political for the rest of the world.

First of all, it is necessary to define the term ‘mobile commons’. In their work, Papadopoulos and Tsianos (2013) state that mobile commons as a phenomenon only exist insomuch as people who are mobile share and generate them (190). The knowledge about mobility and the practices of it extend beyond any private, public, or civil society institutions’ confines and are jointly developed within the commons and through them. As per Papadopoulos and Tsianos (2013), the mobile commons can be referred to as the ability to foster, produce, and reproduce the practices, contents, and impacts facilitating mobile people’s movements (191). A great example of mobile commons working in real life is the story of Inna Grynova, whose survival checklist went viral on the Internet. According to Wood et al. (2022), Grynova, a Ukrainian-Polish citizen, had a stressful experience of fleeing Ukraine by train when Russia started the war earlier this year. It prompted her to compile a list of tips for people in the same situation, which has helped many in knowing what to expect and how to be prepared best.

When it comes to the political practices of migrants, these must be seen as their attempts to change the circumstances of their social existence, not as resistance acts. Papadopoulos and Tsianos (2013) note that these practices are politics transforming the political without using usual terms and notions in its consideration (188). The politics of migrants establish their own codes, logics, and philosophies, which are nearly invisible in terms of occurring political action. According to Papadopoulos and Tsianos (2013), firstly, this is due to people not being accustomed to perceive these politics as ‘proper’ ones (188). Secondly, these politics create a surplus that the current political representation system cannot adequately address (Papadopoulos and Tsianos, 2013, 188). In this sense, the politics of migrants are non-politics – they cannot be represented in the prevailing existing polity. This can be applied to Grynova’s list as well, a survival checklist written specifically for those who flee Ukraine by train. This list is only valuable and understandable to people in the situation in which Grynova herself once was, and thus, it is a non-political resource from one migrant to others.

In conclusion, the world of migration is a world in which multiplying other’s people access to resources is a way of survival, and it is provided by the mobile commons. The mobile commons is mobile people’s ability to facilitate their movements, and, while being their political practice, it is non-political in the outside world in the sense of it being non-representable in the current polity. The stories of the victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such as the story of Inna Grynova’s survival checklist, show how much of a difference the mobile commons can make.


Papadopoulos, D., & Tsianos, V. S. (2013). After citizenship: Autonomy of migration, organisational ontology and mobile commons. Citizenship Studies, 17(2), 178-196.

Wood, P., Shapiro, A., Ozug, M., & Dorning, C. (2022). One woman’s 18-point survival checklist for fleeing Ukraine as Russia invades. NPR.