Migrant Incorporation Under Conditions of Globalisation full text

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As discussed above, globalization leads to major changes in the character of international migration. The context for migrant incorporation has already changed radically and will continue to do so. The rise of multiculturalism itself is one sign of this, but is not the end of the story: new forms of identity and belonging go beyond multiculturalism. Most migration and settlement experiences still fit into one of the three models mentioned above (and often into a mixture of them) but, increasingly, important groups do not. At the dawn of the twenty-first century globalization is undermining all the modes of controlling difference premised on territoriality Increasing mobility; growth of temporary, cyclical and recurring migrations; cheap and easy tray- el; constant communication through new information technologies: all question the idea of the person who belongs to just one nation-state or at most migrates from one state to just one other (whether temporarily or permanently). These changes have led to debates on the significance of transnationalism and transnational communities as new modes of migrant belong- ing. Transnational communities are groups whose identity is not primarily based on attachment to a specific territory They therefore present a powerful challenge to traditional ideas of nation-state belonging.

Transnational communities are not new, even if the term is, The diaspora concept goes back to ancient times, and was used for peoples displaced or dispersed by force (like the Jews, or African slaves in the New World), as well as for trading groups (the Greeks in Western Asia and Africa, or the Arab traders who brought Islam to Southeast Asia), and labor migrants (Indians in the British Empire; Italians since the 1860s) (Cohen, 1997). Transnational communities appear to be proliferating rapidly at present. This trend can per- haps best be understood as part of processes of global integration and time- space compression. This is partly a technological issue: improved transport and accessible real-time electronic communication is the material basis of globalization. But above all it is a social and cultural issue: globalization is dosely linked to changes in social structures and relationships, and to shifts in cultural values concerned with place, mobility and belonging. This is likely to have important consequences, which we are onlyjust beginning to understand (Bauman, 1998; Castells, 1996; Held et al, 1999). It is possible that transnational affiliations and consciousness will become the predominant form of migrant belonging in the future. This would have far-reaching consequences.

Transnational identities are complex and contradictory They can take on a variety offorms, which may either complement existing modes of immigrant incorporation or work against these. If the primary loyalty of transnational communities is not to one nation-state or tertitory what does it relate to? Here we come to an inherent tension in transnational theory Transmigrants are sometimes portrayed as cosmopolitans capable of crossing cultural boundaries and building multiple or hybrid identities. But other theorists argue that transnational consciousness is based overwhelmingly on common ethnicity: transmigrants feel solidarity with co-ethnics in their homeland and elsewhere, In this approach, transnationalism appears as a revalorization of exclusionary ethnic identity and transnational communities take on the form of exile diasporas, determined to establish their own nation-states. We lack the empirical evidence for clear statements, There probably are highly cosmopolitan groups who feel at home everywhere — global business and professional elites might correspond with this image. There are also ‘nations without states’ based on forced dispersal, who mobilize politically to create or transform their homelands. But most members of transnational communities fall between these extremes, and probably have contradictory and fluctuating identities, A long tradition of oral history and migrant literature has shown how migrants have to negotiate their ways between complicated choices of return, assimilation and community formation, These are not exclusive options, and individuals and groups find creative ways of simultaneously adapting to and changing their social environments. The human agency they develop applies not only to overt political or social action, but also to strategies for everyday life.

The same applies to members of transnational communities Individuals and groups constantly negotiate choices with regard to their participation in host societies, their relationships with their homelands, and their links to co-ethnics. Their life strategies bring together elements of existence in both national and transnational social space. There may be no exclusive loyalty to a specific territory but transmigrants need political stability economic pros- perity and social well-being in their places of residence, just like anybody else Successfiil transnationa[ strategies are likely to involve adaptation to multiple social settings as well as cross-cultural competence. In a mobile world of ciii- turally open societies, such capabilities should not be seen as threatening, but, on the contrary, as highly desirable. The notion of primary loyalty to one place is therefore misleading: it was an icon of old-style nationalism that has little relevance for migrants in a mobile world.