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  • Considering the Transnational Cultures and Texts of Canadian Youth
  • Samantha Cutrara (bio)

Prominent transnational scholar Steven Vertovec identified six ways for understanding transnationalism: as social morphology, form of consciousness, mode of cultural production, avenue of capital, site of political engagement, or as reconstruction of place. Most simply, transnationalism is a theoretical concept that encapsulates experiences and identities that span across or beyond national borders. As James Clifford notes, transnationalism is "the connection (elsewhere) that makes a difference (here)" (qtd. in Vertovec 450). As a settler state, Canada has always had a population that moved across and beyond borders (Dubinsky et al.). Before settlement, while not being organized along the same geographic and political concepts of borders, Indigenous nations across Turtle Island, the continent of North America ("The Story of Turtle Island"), moved across and beyond territories. The history of this land thus shows how people are not static. Experiences are not static. Texts, cultures, histories, and lives are not bound by political organizations and institutions. There is fluidity in the ways national boundaries shape the experiences and materials of people's lives, and this can especially be seen in the experiences of youth.

The literature linking youth and transnationalism highlights that young people experience movement across borders differently from adults, and therefore their experiences with transnationalism are different too. Researchers find a "fluid and complex interplay of culture and identity" in young people's negotiation and construction of a sense of self (Simmons and Plaza 144), and theorize that nationalities and ethnicities which young people are related to and to which they relate are part of this interplay (Somerville). Christiane Harzig and Dirk Hoerder also remark that children often have a unique interaction with transnationalism because of formal schooling spaces. Within the space of the school, young people can encounter children from other countries and are inculcated in the particular national values of the nation in which they live as well. [End Page 42]

As we move into the twenty-first century, transnationalism plays an even greater part in young people's lives. Alejandro Portes, Luis E. Guarnizo, and Patricia Landolt identify transnationalism as an important concept for theorists, educators, and practitioners to contemplate because "while back-and-forth movements by immigrants have always existed, they have not acquired until recently the critical mass and complexity necessary to speak of an emergent social field" (217). In particular, the ubiquity of the internet and social networking technologies has meant that the texts and cultures that young people create, interact with, and participate in are not limited by political geographical divisions, but instead are developed based on their interests, desires, and place(s) for community. Given that youth can access texts and cultures from around the world through a click of a mouse, youth with the financial resources to do so can self-style their identities to align with global youth cultures (Warikoo, Balancing; "Gender"), enacting performative explorations of race, nation, and culture for themselves and others (Bondy; Somerville). Vertovec distinctly identifies that youth are bound into the literature on transnationalism because of how youth create their identities in ways that "are often self-consciously selected, syncretized and elaborated from more than one heritage" (451).

In this special section of Jeunesse, six scholars in four articles explore transnationalism in the ways the texts and cultures of young Canadians are "self-consciously selected, syncretized and elaborated from more than one heritage" (Vertovec 451). In Canada, diversity of cultures and nationalities is what many youth appreciate about their country (Ahmad Ali; Grant; Tastsoglou and Petrinioti; Lee and Hébert), guiding their "visions of Canada" (Ahmad Ali 99). I have also argued that transnationalism is one of the defining features of Canadian youth's experiences and identities in Canada today (Cutrara). Yet the literature of Canadian youth's transnationalism is scant. The contributions featured in this collection demonstrate innovative arguments for the ways transnationalism is enmeshed with young people's lives in Canada; and these arguments are not just based on the lives of immigrant or first-generation Canadians, but the lives of youth who were born in Canada as well.

In their introduction to a collection on transnationalism and Canada, Vic Satzewich and Lloyd...


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pp. 42-51
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