Significance of transnational communities for national identity full text

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Individuals and groups develop transnational linkages because these provide the best ways of dealing with the social situations and opportunity structures they encounter in the context of globalization. The states and civil societies of both sending and receiving countries do much to shape these contextual factors. The governments ofemigration countries often try to bind their expatriates to the homeland, because this can bring economic, political or culmral benefits, There is a long history ofsuch efforts. For instance, the overseas Chinese have played an important role in political change at home, and both nationalist and communist Chinese governments have sought to control and mobilize the diaspora (Sinn, 1998), The Philippines government has special laws and programs to maintain links with nationals abroad — even when they take the citizenship ofanother state (Aguilai 1999). The recent introduction of dual citizenship by the Mexican government was designed to keep the affiliations ofthe millions ofcitizens who have taken up residence and citizenship in the United States. Such measures are likely to strengthen transnationalism on the part of migrants.

Immigration countries also influence transnational community formation in various ways, both negative and positive. Practices of exclusion, discrimination or forced assimilation against immigrants can prevent integration and encourage a homeland orientation. In such cases, enclave communities with their own economic, cultural and political infrastructures may emerge. Where immigrants experience marginalization or racism, their best chance of success lies in mobilizing community solidarity and transnational links — a sort of’reactive ethnicityc’ Interestingly, Portes argues that transnational activities can in the long run empower low-status immigrants, and help them to secure better living standards and education for their children — leading to a better chance of assimilation in the future (Portes et al., 1 999). More positive attitudes on the part of immigration countries can also encourage transnational communities. Policies that accept linguistic and cultural maintenance are conducive to transnational linkages. On the other hand, anti-discrimination policies make it easier for immigrants to succeed in mainstream society Since these are both aspects of multicultural policy, it seems that multiculturalism does not automatically encourage transnationalism, but perhaps gives immigrants more choice on the degree to which they want to carry out cross-border activities.

Thus, both discrimination and multiculturalism can lead to transnational communities — but of different types. Discrimination leads to closed- off communities, which are relatively isolated in their country of residence and compensate through transnational linkages. This may have negative effects on social cohesion and citizenship. Multiculturalism leads to cosmopolitan communities, which negotiate both local and cross-border link- ages, bringing benefits in terms of cultural openness and economic opportunities. This type of transnational community is not likely to undermine national identity and citizenship, but may bring about transformations in their character.