Annotation: Basch, Linda, Nina Glick-Schiller, Christina Szanton. 1994. Nations Unbound

Basch, Linda, Nina Glick-Schiller, Christina Szanton. 1994. Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation States. Langhorne, PA: Gordon and Breach.

Glick Schiller et al. argue that the old term “immigrant” (Handlin 1973) evokes images of “permanent rupture” and “abandonment of old patterns of life” (3-4). They thus suggest to use the term “transmigrant” to refer to people who are involved in sustaining both home and host societies (7). They also introduce the term “transnationalism,” which refers to “the processes by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement” (7). Through a transnational framework that integrates a global perspective on history (33), the authors suggest that social scientists will break through “the bounded thinking that has defined and delimited the dialogue that challenges nation building agendas” (257). The authors also problematize transnationalism as a product of increased world capitalism that has “necessitated the maintenance of family ties and political allegiances among persons spread across the globe” (24). The authors use as one of the examples the case of Filipino migration, and note that many familial, economic, and organizational practices today are motivated by the migrants’ aspirations for improving their class and social position both in the host society and at home (261). On the other hand, while some level of improvement of personal or familial status might be achieved, the authors suggest that they then contribute to the “maintenance of larger structures of exploitation in which they are enmeshed” (262). Finally, in contrast with the study of migration using the concept of flows of ideas and items (i.e. Appadurai, Hannerz), the authors suggest that transnationalism must be conceptualized as “social relations constructed by subordinated populations” (290), in which transmigrants facilitate global capitalist restructuring, reinforce hegemonic constructions (e.g. perceptions of racial hierarchy in the host society), and engage in practices that preserve the global structure of dominance (291).

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