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SZALO Transnational Migrations_cross Border Ties_homes_theories

SZALO Transnational Migrations_cross Border Ties_homes_theories

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Published by: cszalo on Sep 27, 2009
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Szaló, Csaba. 2009. "Transnational Migrations: Cross-Border Ties,Homes, and Theories." in: Boundaries in Motion. RethinkingContemporary Migration Events. ed. by Ondrej Hofirek, RadkaKlvanova, Michal Nekorjak. Brno: CDK. pp.29-49.
 
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Portes, A., Guarnizo, L.E., Landolt, P. 1999. e Study of Transnationalism:Pitfalls and Promise of an Emergent Research Field.
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2007. New Directions in the Anthropology of Migration andMulticulturalism.
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 TRANSNATIONAL MIGRATIONS:CROSS-BORDER TIES, HOMES, AND THEORIES
Csaba Szaló
eorising transnational migration has always been based ondoubt for the mainstream, nationalist conceptualisation of mi-gration that emphasised territorially dened national bordersand populations. Transnationalism, by accentuating relationsbetween localities and focusing on movements across nationally demarcated borders, problematises categories which privilegednation-state territories and conceived them as separate and au-tonomous units. It also makes necessary a rethinking of broaderquestions of identity formation under conditions of globalisation.e overall objective of this article is the reconstruction of conceptual frames and theoretical presuppositions shared by re-cent theories of transnationalism which deal with the questionof identity formation of migrants. In the rst part of this articleI am going to give a critical reading of Pnina Werbners book 
eMigration Process
and by revealing theoretical dilemmas presentin this book I attempt to sketch my interpretive strategy. To ex-plore this issue further I am in the second part going to narrow my focus and concentrate on the concept of multi-local lifeworldas it was developed as a theoretical translation of a radical con-cept of transnational social elds. e critical intention of thispaper developed in the second part as well as in the third partdealing with the concept of diaspora is the elaboration on theanalytical distinction between heterodox and orthodox inter-pretive strategies in coping with the question of transnationalidentity formation.
 
30 31
 Theoretical Dilemmas in Theorising Transnational Migration
Pnina Werbner (1990) in her important book 
e MigrationProcess
disclosed the centrality of class relations in the reproduc-tion of migration ows. e analytic dimension of social class isusually neglected by mainstream analyses of immigration. Werb-ner claims that to understand the migration process (not merely immigration) one have to analyse identities and social hierar-chies generated by ethnicity, gender, race and social class. Whatis behind this neglect of social hierarchies, and especially socialclass relations by the mainstream migration theories? ere is animplicit assumption shared by mainstream theories and researchprograms that no matter what is the class position of immigrantsin their “ethnic community”, they all must be located at the so-cial bottom of the host society. Werbner argues that this is a factclearly refuted by empirical evidence, at least in the case of SouthAsian migrants in United Kingdom.In her book, Werbner remarkably analyses how the migra-tion process constitutes a highly stratied and hierarchicalcommunity of South Asian migrants. is social hierarchy isperhaps partly a product of the economic success of some mi-grants in their new home. Nevertheless, it is mainly structuredby their disposition brought from their original home, that is,by dierences in education, caste, wealth, and by the impactsof their urban or rural background. e critical signicance of this social hierarchy is generated its theoretical-methodologicalimplication that no generalisation can be valid for the wholecommunity of migrants. Social hierarchy destroys the possibility to generalise on ethnic identity, religious practice, youth culture,gender, education or poverty in case of a particular immigrantcommunity. Simply, migrants do not form culturally homog-enous and socially unied local or national communities. Werb-ner clearly demonstrates the importance of internal class andstatus distinctions among South Asian migrants by an analysisof their symbolic economy of consumption.e theoretical limits of Werbner’s book can comprehensibly show why it is necessary to strive for a critical reconstructionof assumptions structuring out theories of migration. First of all, we can see that in spite of its critical perspective Werbnerreproduces the symbolic boundary between the community of migrants and the host society. Her eort to reveal the social func-tion of cultural and social diversity in migrant communities isexceptional; however, these dierences are still treated as “inter-nal” to the migrant community. In this sense, we have to face thetheoretical dilemma of whether the crucial analytical divisionsare relevantly conceived either as between migrants and nativesor inside of migrant and native selves/societies.Secondly, troubles with the validity of generalisations for thewhole community imposes on us a dilemma on what “level” of social reality would aspire our interpretative strategies to gener-alise. In other words to demarcate the boundary we want to reachwith our generalisations: all immigrants of particular ethnicbackground or of a particular country, or all immigrants livingin a particular society, or all of the inhabitants living in a particu-lar host society, or all human beings. Perhaps these boundariescan be modied during the phase of analysis; however, they arealready present in our concepts in our theories at the beginningof our research eorts. For instance, one can ask whether the pro-posed stress on diversity, on internal dierences, does not makeimpossible to reach universality, to fulll the scientic normativeideal to universal generalisations. In spite of the later suggestion,the validity of generalisations is not merely a question of apply-ing the accurate methodology of representation but also ques-tion of reecting our position in the eld of clashing representa-tional claims and acknowledging a theoretical dilemma of why do not we universalise from or within a particular case if it isalways possible.
1
at is, one of the main problems to cope withis to nd out what kind of theoretical presuppositions are hiddenbehind the normative requirement of generalisation. What kindof philosophy of science forms the ground of our interpretivestrategy as well as our professional identity?Finally, we can observe a theoretical shi in Werbner’s argu-mentation from a critique the implicit theoretical assumptionsof the mainstream perspective (the ignorance of social hierarchy because of presuppositions about the structure of dominance) to
1
On the concept of universalisation in cases see Geertz (1993).

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