, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 246–270 | Cite as

Becoming an airline passenger: Body, luggage, and documents

  • Mor Shilon
  • Ronen ShamirEmail author
Original Article


This paper deploys a relational-material approach for tracing the assembly of passengers as they move through airports and use its series of passage points. While many studies analyse airport mobility and passengers’ experiences, few do so with the question of subjectivity as their main theoretical focus. Rather than treating subjectivity as an epiphenomenon or alternatively as a myriad of spatio-sensual experiences, we treat the subjectivity of airline passengers as a product and an achievement: a work of assembly which requires the skilful coordination of body, luggage, and documents. We introduce the notion of ‘mobility capital’ as a vital ingredient in this process of active assembly: learnt variations and improvisations while interacting with the architecture of airports and with the materially embedded regulation of civil aviation account for the process of acquiring the subjectivity of airline passengers and for the variance among them.


actor-network theory airports globalisation identity mobility 



Authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their invaluable comments. Thanks for commenting on earlier drafts also to Peter Adey, Fran Tonkiss, and Susan Silbey.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technion - Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Tel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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