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Dossier 19/02/2014

The connected migrant: agent of globalisation

Assimilate into the society to which they have migrated or do everything in their power to return home? These are the choices faced by many migrants in their daily lives, chipping away at the image of the migrant so often described as one who is perpetually uprooted – not truly “here”, but no longer “there”.

A great many migrants maintain links with two or even more countries simultaneously, forming economic, political, social or cultural networks. They forge plural identities, which fly in the face of borders and delineate a kind of “grassroots globalisation”.

For around twenty years, researchers have used the term “transnationalism” to describe this phenomenon and deconstruct the binary vision of migration, which juxtaposes the present with the absent, the mobile with the sedentary, the indigenous with the foreign. The loss of home ties is no longer inevitable and migration can be thought of in terms of continuity and exchange rather than rupture.

Riva Kastoriano, Director of Research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), tells of a football match that took place in 1992 between Türkiyem Sport, a Berlin team made up of young Turkish immigrants, and a local team of “Germans”. The first passes were made, the first action took place - and then the first surprises: the spectators reacted, certainly – but not really at the right times: transistor radios to their ears, they were listening to a different match taking place in Turkey! Divided loyalty, multiple ties…

Fresh exchanges

Of course, humans have always migrated and have always maintained links, be they strong or weak, with their countries of origin. In this regard, we think of the letters exchanged by Malians living in France with those at home, which are still delivered by hand today, or of the oral messages on audio cassette used by Algerian migrants in France during the 1970s, for example. In recent years, however, time and space have been compressed to an almost brutal extent. These factors have amplified and redesigned the links that define integration within a host country. Researcher Helen Sampson has summed this up rather neatly in one simple equation: “translational communities = diasporas + technology”. Rather than the cross-border movement of nomads, it is about the multiple anchoring of migrants within the networks they establish every day.

In integrating into a transnational community, the “connected migrant”, as Dana Diminescu calls him, modifies his position in the world and his way of belonging to it. Thus, transnationalism redefines well-established concepts such as the correlation between the State, the nation and the identity. The Nation State, far from disintegrating, is instead reinvented: what these migrants teach us is that we can feel like citizens of a nation without living within its territory and we can even participate socially and politically in that nation from a distance: proof positive that the migrant is a key agent of globalisation.


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Consult the original sources of this article

La mondialisation par le bas [L'émergence des communautés transnationales]
by Alejandro Portes

La mondialisation par le bas Cet article élabore le concept de « communauté transnationale » comme forme originale et potentiellement puissante d'adaptation par le bas à la mondialisation du capital qui est typiquement ignorée par la recherche conventionnelle et mécomprise par les États. L'émergence de communautés nourries par les migrations qui se tiennent à cheval sur les frontières politiques et déploient leurs relations et leurs activités sociales simultanément dans le pays de départ et le pays d'accueil trouve sa racine dans la logique même de l'expansion capitaliste. L'entreprenariat transnational, qui tire profit des différentiels d'information et de prix entre pays, nourrit la croissance cumulative de réseaux et de firmes dans lesquels s'ancrent les communautés transfrontalières de longue distance dont les membres vivent une « double vie » étirée à travers deux sociétés nationales. Ce mode distinctif d'adaptation immigrante est favorisé, d'une part, par l'assèchement des emplois industriels bien payés dans les pays avancés et, d'autre part, par la diminution spectaculaire des coûts de communication et de transport à longue distance. À terme, la transnationalisation du travail dont les communautés transnationales sont la manifestation est capable de freiner la croissance de l'inégalité internationale de richesse et de pouvoir. Toutefois, dans le court terme, elle peut avoir l'effet inverse et creuser les disparités régionales et de classes dans les pays d'émigration.

PDF Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales. Vol. 129, septembre 1999. Délits d'immigration. pp. 15-25.

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