Under the influence of globalization and with the rapid elimination of formal borders, the issues of transnational migration and assimilation have become much more urgent. Present-day scholars are becoming increasingly concerned about the way migration expands the boundaries of social imagination and changes the cultural and ethnic patterns in non-immigrant communities. The goal of this paper is to summarize the most essential readings in the realm of transnationalism and its social implications.
One of the most interesting and, actually, fundamental sources of information about transnational migration patterns is Transnationalism and the Persistence of Homeland Ties published by Kivisto and Faist in 2010. In this article, the researchers provide a detailed discussion of the term “transnationalism”, its main features, and the different ways in which it can be interpreted against the changeable social realities of life. Kivisto and Faist (2010) trace the way the term “transnational” developed and evolved into its current form, thus shaping the basis for a better understanding of the transcultural migration phenomena. According to Kivisto and Faist (2010), the first conceptualizations of the term “transnational” can be found back in the early 1990s. Cultural anthropology can be fairly regarded as the starting point in the subsequent evolution of the term. The crucial role played by transportation and communication technologies in the rapid expansion of cross-border contacts is the recurrent theme running through most, if not all, conceptualizations of transnationalism (Kivisto & Faist, 2010).
In his 2003 and 2004 works, Smith further expands the topic of transnational migration. The researcher seeks to determine the way transnationalism impacts gender relations and patterns both within and beyond immigrant communities. By using the example of Mexico, Smith (2003; 2004) shows how the established gender norms continue to persist in the absence of men in families and, at the same time, how these gender norms are negotiated by these men in the conditions of immigration. The most interesting point is that while immigrant Mexican men manage to maintain a masculine image in their native community, they fail to preserve their masculine status in New York or elsewhere, mostly due to their socially, culturally, and legally illegitimate status (Smith, 2003; 2004). To a large extent, the work of Smith (2003) echoes his later presentation (Smith, 2004) but implies that transnationalism can be equally powerful and ineffective in presenting the values of immigrants in their new land.
Two examples can shed light on the complexity of transnational patterns and relationships. On the one hand, Kivisto and Faist (2010) speak about the Havana community in New York, which manages to promote its cultural interests and, simultaneously, organizes cultural programs in their native land. On the other hand, Smith (2003) writes about the difficulties facing Mexican immigrants in their search of prosperity in America. Many Mexican males who come to New York to earn their living cannot find a compromise between their male identity and the illegitimacy of their status. Immigration also gives rise to a totally new type of social relationships in which Mexican women assume responsibility for their future while their husbands are renegotiating their identities and switch to household work (Smith, 2003).
In this sense, the four most important questions are:
1. Can transnationalism make immigrants stronger when faced with the new cultural realities of immigrant life?
2. How does the concept of “ranchero” change the way the second generation of Mexican immigrants redefines its identity both in the native land and beyond?
3. Does a new hegemonic woman have a chance to survive in the gender hierarchies imposed on her by the native culture?
4. How can transnationalism change in the nearest future?