Arts, Arabic, Adventures

Part Three | Transnational

Part 3: Post-Research

Having conducted some preliminary research in the field, seeing what results “voluntary statelessness” yielded, I am glad to have discovered a keyword that relates to my own experience more, that is, transnationalism. This serves as a notion that encompasses the state of being between nations, a blurring of the borders of nation-states by the movement of people throughout the world. Much literature focuses on migrants and migrant communities, exploring topics like language-learning and generational differences, and how connections between a migrant’s home and location manifest both in the person and in the world(s) that they inhabit.

This concept is framed as a sort of “double placeness,” where a person living outside of their home culture (for lack of a better word) will compare their location with their “home,” that this comparison takes place so often and so rapidly that the two places exist almost simultaneously that person’s mind.[1] Through peoples' interactions within and around them, locations develop connections across borders, across oceans, sometimes only conceptually but at other times in more material ways. Interactions between migrant and host community provide opportunities to connect two locations, while practical matters such as the movement of capital from place to place develop “tangible” (depending on your opinion on the tangibility of financial capital) connections between places, that is, the financial activities of transnational individuals often influences both nations with which they interact. This can be extended to investigate consumer demand of migrants searching for familiar and preferred products or brands that leads to multi-national distribution and franchising. 

Another theme is that of language, and how access to and understanding of the language of a host community influences the experience of the transnational. Scholars write at length about the teaching of language in schools, and how children of immigrants become more active, and more influential, members of the societies that they inhabit due to a (generalised) higher proficiency in the host language. There is less discussion of the concept of “global languages,” which is a concept I have encountered in everyday interaction, but rarely in scholarship. The language of a culture is the key to understanding, and the function of language in the life of a migrant, or transnational, is not simply to fulfil basic needs, which could conceivably be done without knowledge of the host language, but to foster the aforementioned interplay between one’s native and resident culture by actively engaging with the host society. Language proficiency also influences the power dynamics between those individuals and residents or natives of the host community.

An aspect of transnationalism with less scholarly attention is on the individual traveller. Research is focused on migrant communities, perhaps in order to gain more statistical significance and better justify research aims. This ties to tension between qualitative and quantitative research, with quantitative studies often taking the primary place of interest, as they are easier to justify. Qualitative research does provide information, such as the experience of individual transnationals, that would otherwise be difficult to obtain in quantitative methodology. I don't think it's unreasonable to consider artistic inquiry a casual form of qualitative research, thus justify my interest in providing perspectives on the experience of the independent transnational.

Nora ByrneComment