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Transnational Communities Programme

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CALL FOR PAPERS

New Approaches to Migration
Transnational Communities and the Transformation of Home

University of Sussex

21-22 September 1999

Provisional Programme

A focus on ‘transnational communities’ has been widely heralded as an important new approach to international migration. More traditional approaches have tended to conceive international migrants as exceptions from the norm. Attention has been divided broadly between the process of migration - emphasising the importance of geographical movement across international borders, and the product of migration - emphasising the impacts of migrants on societies in which they settle. In contrast, the transnational communities approach conceives of international migrants not as anomalies, but rather as representative of an increasingly globalised world. It has refocused attention on the utilisation by international migrants of modes of telecommunication and transport; their pooling of resources and successful exploitation of global markets, and their association with new social forms, political challenges and cultural resources generated by linkages across several geographical locations.

This Conference will critically evaluate the transnational communities approach to contemporary international migration. It will do so through a specific focus on the relationship between ‘transnational communities’ and home. One implication of the new approach is that the ‘meaning of home’ for international migrants is changing and evolving, as they develop new, globally-oriented identities. To what extent is this true? The approach has also focused particular attention on ‘diasporas’, which are often considered to comprise the classical example of transnational communities among international migrants. But changes in homelands can result in the return and regrouping of diasporas - an observation which invites the question to what extent are transnational communities only a transient phenomenon? Finally, the new approach emphasises the new-found social, cultural and political ‘power’ of international migrants. Are there any indications that this power is boosting the traditional contributions that international migrants have made to their home countries, for example through remittances? In this way, the Conference asks to what extent the transnational communities approach offers a better way to understand the relationship between international migrants and their homes.

 The Conference is organised around three main themes:

1. Transnational Communities and the Meaning of ‘Home’

One of the defining characteristics of transnational communities is that they have multiple allegiances to places. It follows that the meaning of ‘home’ for transnational communities is likely to be complex and multi-dimensional. The first aim of this Conference is to explore the way that the concept ‘home’ is being transformed in the context of emerging transnational communities. Does the existence of these communities necessitate a reconceptualisation of the notion ‘home’? To what extent is ‘home’ for transnational communities no longer tied to a specific geographical place? To what extent do transnational communities conceive of more than one ‘home’, with competing allegiances changing through time?

2. The Implications of Transforming Homes for Transnational Communities

Another characteristic of transnational communities is that they maintain economic, political and social networks that span several societies. What defines membership of these networks is a common country of origin or a shared identity. Members of transnational communities often have a common ethnicity; often retain a collective memory of ‘home’, and often also aspire to return to a ‘homeland’. The second aim of this Conference is to examine the extent to which transformations in the country of origin can impact upon the formation, maintenance and even decline of transnational communities. Just as the formation of transnational communities has accelerated in recent years, so too has the unmaking of these communities, through the re-grouping or in-gathering of migrant communities or dispersed ethnic groups, as a result of movements of people back to their country of origin, or through their integration in host countries.

3. Transnational Communities and the Transformation of Home

A third characteristic of transnational communities is that through their global span and as a result of their networks, they can wield substantial political, economic and social power. The third aim of this Conference is to ask to what extent this power is targeted by transnational communities on effecting transformations in their countries of origin. What influences the capacity of transnational communities contributing to ‘development’ or to post-conflict reconstruction? What are their modes of participation, and what are the barriers to participation?

Please send abstracts of up to 500 words by 1 March 1999 to either:

Dr. Nadje Al-Ali
Sussex Centre for Migration Research
University of Sussex
Arts C
Falmer
Brighton
BN1 9SF
Dr. Khalid Koser
Migration Research Unit
Department of Geography
University of College London
26 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AP
tel: 01273 606755 ext.3394
fax: 01273 620662
e-mail: N.Al-Ali@sussex.ac.uk
tel: 0171 380 7564
fax: 0171 380 7565
e-mail: kkoser@geography.ucl.ac.uk

 

 

 

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