- Citizenship in Transnational Perspective: Australia, Canada, and New Zealand ed. by Jatinder Mann
Edited by Jatinder Mann, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, this book contains fifteen chapters written by both established and emerging scholars from a variety of disciplines. It is divided into four sections, each of which deals with a specific topic: transnationalism, citizenship regimes in settler societies, settler–Indigenous citizenships, [End Page 325] and deep diversity and securitization. It is ostensibly “an important and unique contribution to the literature”–so claims the editor twice within its first eight pages–because of its transnational perspective and its dual focus on indigeneity and ethnicity. I came to the book with the understanding that “international” represented the study of a phenomenon across borders, whereas “transnational” represented the study of a phenomenon irrespective of borders. Given that citizenship is generally about belonging to a bounded area, I thought, how does one study it transnationally? Unfortunately, the book provided few examples of how this is possible; the section devoted to transnationalism is the shortest of the four, the index lists only three relevant pages under that heading, and few of the chapters have a discernably transnational focus.
Augie Fleras’s chapter, “Rethinking Citizenship through Transnational Lenses,” serves as a theoretical introduction. Heavily encumbered with jargon, it explains that there is not a single transnational perspective and that transnational can refer to a descriptive variable, an interpretive lens, or a lived reality, although its most narrow or common sense definition refers to how migrants “forge and maintain ties that span or transcend national borders” (15). However, Fleras then explodes this definition by stating that he uses “the prefix trans in transnational in the broadest possible way.” Transnational is about going across or beyond; it is about transcending, transpositioning, transversing, and ultimately transforming. A “trans perspective” is thus “a new discursive framework for rethinking the politics of citizenship in a world of posts, trans, and isms” (16). He concludes by inviting the reader to consider the possibility of a transnational citizenship, which paradoxically requires us to admit the incompatibility of contemporary models while also recognizing the need for strong national citizenship (28–9).
I remain sceptical of this broad vision for a number of reasons. Transnationalism seeks to be a global ideal, and, perhaps as a result, scholars using this type of approach can speculate in a way that is often homogenizing. Informing the idea of transnational citizenship is the concept of superdiversity (coined by Steven Vertovec, who is not cited in the volume), which is used to describe increasing global migration and the proliferation of ethnic diversity in European countries. However, the situation varies in other countries and within different regions of the same country. Talking about the challenge of diversity means something very different in reference to a relatively stable European nation than it does in reference to a country where one ethnic group is suppressing or killing another. Transnationalism, [End Page 326] as a discursive framework, can thus look suspiciously like the “Euro-centrism posing as universalism” (16) that it claims to be opposing, especially when it speaks of what is “desirable” (29). Likewise, super-diversity is not found everywhere. Certainly Auckland, New Zealand, is diverse, as Paul Spoonley discusses in his chapter, but what of the rest of the country? In Canada, if a scholar examines Vancouver or Toronto, it makes sense to talk of the “diversity of diversity,” but what about rural areas, much of the Maritimes, or the Territories? Generalizing about supposedly global trends can mean losing sight of the specific, lived reality of many who would comprise this utopian, postcitizenship, super-diverse world.
Studies following Fleras’s broad definition of transnationalism could take virtually any form. However, and in a wise move by the editor, Fleras’s chapter is followed by Daiva Stasiulis’s grounded study of Lebanese–Canadian and Lebanese–Australian dual citizens in the aftermath of the war in the summer of 2006. This chapter explores how these citizens construct social citizenship in two national...