Nomads commonly move throughout different regions, across national borders and continents, in search of fertile pastures, lucrative working conditions and creative exchange. Nowadays, the terminology is used frequently and extensively yet mobility is fundamental to all of its varieties. The concept of nomadism ranges from traditional nomadic shepherds to seasonal economic migrants and commuters to “digital nomads” and “neonomadic” life and work designs, thereby not only conveying a variety of mobile lifestyles but also depicting the underlying power relations. The Greek nomàs translates to “roaming about for pasture”, a word from which the collective term “nomad” was derived, and which did not originate as a self-designation by groups of shepherds but was shaped by outsiders and those in power. Today, many of these groups refer to themselves as “mobile peoples” and endure discrimination and structural disadvantage largely due to colonization and the associated territorialization as well as the consequences of neoliberalization, privatization and climate change.
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari coined the nomad as a theoretical figure in their paper “Nomadology: The War Machine”, which was published in A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia II in 1980. They introduce the nomad as an emancipative figure which opposes prevailing hegemonic structures and dynamizes, even destroys the rigid order of the state apparatus through permanent – not necessarily physical, but rather mental – movement. As the cultural anthropologist Anna Lipphardt elucidates, Deleuze and Guattari thereby designate the nomad as a mobile figure of thought that neither attends to the nomadic groups in an empirical practice nor analyzes the phenomenon of mobility. Instead, this figure is drawn on in order to “develop a radically subjective post-national strategy of political thought and action.”
In this way, nomadism becomes a symbolic figure of resistance, committed to deterritorialization. Various theoreticians refer to it in this very political function, including the feminist philosopher Rosi Braidotti, who calls for the demise of standardized subjects in her theory on “Nomadic Subjects” and appeals to the imminent, collective and intersubjective that utilizes polyphony and multilingualism in order to break away from the prevailing power structures, cause binary systems to unravel and create room for difference. “Nomadic subjectivity is about determining lines of escape, that is, a creative, alternative space of becoming that is not only situated between the distinction of mobile/immobile and local/stranger, but also within these categories. It is not a question of rejecting or glorifying the status of deterritorialized marginality, of the foreign other, but of comprehending the different places more specifically and more complexly and connecting them to the maps of power with the aim of transforming the actual conditions of their specification and our political interaction.” Following Michel Foucault, Braidotti’s “subject-theoretical” formulation of the nomadic aims to oppose the signifiers and thereby expose the power of discourse that generates our knowledge and subjectivity. In doing so, she rightly describes that the subject’s mobilization cannot solely be achieved from a Eurocentric perspective like hers, but that it requires a complex network of social relationships in which the prevailing power structures must inevitably be set in motion, in which spaces are exposed, borders are shifted and the order of inside and outside, middle and margin becomes fluid.
As a theoretical figure, nomadism represents the movement itself and not for instance a path with a beginning and an end. However, beyond this figure of thought, various modes of mobility are incorporated into the concept of nomadism. In her work, Rosi Braidotti questions these modes, which – in view of our globalized world and the refugee flows on the one hand and mass tourism as well as masses of individual tourists on the other hand, and considering globally organized commodities and data management – result in further fatal and capitalistically motivated excesses: “Fundamentally rooted in the global metropolises which function as organizing principles of hierarchization and distribution of wealth, the globalized network society operates by means of controlled mobility. Commodities and data circulate much more freely than human subjects or subjects that are hardly perceived as human at all but that make up the majority of asylum seekers and illegal residents in the world.” Between the poles of supposed freedom, flexibility and self-determination on the one hand and repression, poverty and destroyed livelihoods on the other, modern mobility oscillates in its entirely post-colonial-capitalist fatality.
In today’s world, however, we are forced to pause. Our present situation sets new limits to our mobility and the accustomed freedom of movement of the privileged Western world. Since the spread of the corona virus, borders are gaining new significance on a territorial level, communities are being renegotiated and solidarity is generally being practiced within the clear designation of affiliation and exclusion; in addition, the physical presence in the private and public sphere is a politically charged subject. How we move, how we touch, where we meet, how we interact – it is all redefined, restricted, circumcised, observed. The presence of the body turns into a political issue, a perceived threat, a taboo; physical absence determines our daily routine, our work, our everyday life.
In his manifesto “Learning from the Virus”, the Spanish philosopher and queer theorist Paul B. Preciado, who contracted the coronavirus himself at the beginning of the year, deliberates on Foucault’s theses on biopolitical surveillance in a disciplinary society and describes how our bodies become the host of violent border policies and how the subject is thus reshaped: “The subjects of the neoliberal technical-patriarchal societies that Covid-19 is in the midst of creating do not have skin; they are untouchable; they do not have hands. They do not exchange physical goods, nor do they pay with money. They are digital consumers equipped with credit cards. They do not have lips or tongues. They do not speak directly; they leave a voice mail. They do not gather together and they do not collectivize. They are radically in-dividual. They do not have faces; they have masks.” Therefore, the battle against the virus carries a strategy of seclusion into the body itself. It legitimizes a subject whose rights, needs and oftentimes livelihoods are overridden. And as much as distancing and seclusion is justifiable as a necessary means to protect lives considering the virus, these drastic measures not only require ongoing critical questioning but also demand the search for new ways of encounter, contact, interaction and exchange, without a complete localization in the digital space.
Furthermore, Paul B. Preciado draws on the term “planetary”, which the media scientist Ulrike Bergermann etymologically attributes to something that “roams”, and which according to her definition does not represent the “other of globalization”, but “analyzes the field which originates from worldwide relationships between new and old networks of states, communities, transformed affiliations and individuals.” By employing this post-global terminology, Preciado redirects the focus from the prevailing discourse on the virus to the catastrophic overall situation of our planet: “It is precisely because our bodies are the new enclaves of biopower and because our apartments are the new cells of biovigilance that it is more urgent than ever to invent new strategies of cognitive emancipation and resistance and to initiate new forms of antagonism. Contrary to what one might imagine, our health will not come from demarcations or separation, but only from a new understanding of community with all living creatures, a new balance between all beings on the planet.” Consequently, Preciado calls for a “parliament of planetary bodies” that develops beyond identity-political and national categories, thereby generating a collective force.
The seclusion that we Europeans are experiencing in a new way as it is directed against ourselves and which inscribes itself into our bodies and the drawing of boundaries that suddenly doesn’t only affect those coming from the outside anymore – these experiences connect us to the planetary reality in a way that reaches far beyond the virus. Could this moment signify a point of contact? Could a moment of solidarity arise that extends throughout the planet?
But how can we change in a sustainable way, how can we shed our privileges? How can we mutate? How can we overcome seclusion, the erosion of solidarity and telecontrol? Especially during this current time of isolation? The point at which Preciado summarizes: “Let us turn off our cell phones, let us disconnect from the internet. Let us stage a big blackout against the satellites observing us and let us consider the coming revolution together” is where new space for collective thinking, exchange and togetherness must emerge. This is where the nomadic as a mobile figure of thought, which opposes anything that is static, which is fluid, flexible and at the same time resistant, can provide a productive discursive form that can only develop its full stature within the field of tension between presence and absence.
Lisa Schmidt, July 2020 (Translation: Jen Whigham)
 Anna Lipphardt, “Der Nomade als Theoriefigur, empirische Anrufung und Lifestyle-Emblem. Auf Spurensuche im Globalen Norden” (The Nomad as a Theoretical Figure, Empirical Invocation and Lifestyle Emblem. In Search of Clues in the Global North) in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (From Politics and Contemporary History), Vol. 65. (Theme Book Nomads), 26–27/2015, June 22 2015, pp. 32–38, here: p. 32 et seqq.
 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Nomadology: The War Machine, trans. Brian Massumi, Seattle 2010, (original edition: “Traité de Nomadologie. La Machine de Guerre“, in: Mille Plateaux. Capitalism et Schizophrénie II, Paris 1980).
 Anna Lipphardt, “Der Nomade als Theoriefigur, empirische Anrufung und Lifestyle-Emblem. Auf Spurensuche im Globalen Norden” (The Nomad as a Theoretical Figure, Empirical Invocation and Lifestyle Emblem. In Search of Clues in the Global North), see above p. 34.
 Rosi Braidotti, “Nomadische Subjekte” (Nomadic Subjects), in: Kerstin Stakemeier and Susanne Witzgall (eds.): Fragile Identitäten (Fragile Identities), Zürich – Berlin 2015, pp. 147–156, here: p. 149.
 Ibid., p. 149.
 Paul B. Preciado, Vom Virus lernen (Learning from the Virus), April 7 2020, https://www.hebbel-am-ufer.de/hau3000/vom-virus-lernen/, last accessed on June 1 2020.
 Ulrike Bergermann, “Das Planetarische. Vom Denken und Abbild des ganzen Globus“ (The Planetary. On Thought and Likeness of the Entire Globe), in: Ludwig Jäger, Ulrike Bergermann, Isabell Otto and Gabriele Schabacher: Das Planetarische. Kultur – Technik – Medien im postglobalen Zeitalter (The Planetary. Culture – Technology – Media in the Age of Post-Globalization), Paderborn 2010, pp. 17–42, here: p. 18.
 Paul B. Preciado, Vom Virus lernen (Learning from the Virus), see above