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Diaspora 9:3 2000 Transnationalism and Globalization: The Greek Orthodox Diaspora between Orthodox Universalism and Transnational Nationalism1 Victor Roudometof Miami University of Ohio The recent "discovery" of transnationalism has fueled the production of research on international migration (Glick Schiller, Basch, and Szanton Blanc, "Transnationalism," "From Immigrant"; Smith; Basch, Glick Schiller, and Szanton Blanc; Smith and Guarnizo ; Mahler, American Dreaming; Laguerre; Van Hear; Portes, Guarnizo, and Landolt). It has also generated considerable controversy over the definition oftransnationalism, as well as its asserted novelty (Mintz; Van Hear 241-56; Mahler, "Theoretical" 75; Guarnizo and Smith 16-17; Domínguez; Hanagan). In this essay, I attempt to approach transnational studies by developing a world historical framework for understanding transnationalism and by applying this framework to a case study. Perhaps the most important contribution ofthe new transnational literature is the clear articulation of some bold new premises for social research (Glick Schiller et al., 'Transnationalism"; Basch et al.). Briefly, these include a direct linkage between transnational migration and global capitalism's shifting conditions; transnationalism as empowerment through the creation of social fields crossing national boundaries; and a rethinking of the terms "race," "ethnicity ," and "nation." According to Basch et al., social scientists' traditional understanding of these terms has been inadequate for a sufficient analysis of international migration. Their argument aims to redirect social research away from United States-focused literature on acculturation and immigration (e.g., Portes and Rumbaut ) and toward a global comparative frame of reference. By displacing the traditional understanding of US-style "race and ethnicity," this new research agenda aims to connect the US "race and ethnicity" literature with the broader, international research on ethnicity and nationalism. However, the very goal ofthis effort requires developing transnationalism 's historical dimension. No definition will be sufficient if it is not grounded in historical reality, and no justification for the novelty oftransnationalism can be developed adequately without a clear articulation of the differences between contemporary reality and past experience. Therefore, an adequate understanding of the transnational experience requires the establishment ofa conceptual link between transnationalism and globalization. 361 Diaspora 9:3 2000 1. Transnationalism and Globalization in World Historical Perspective Cultural studies theorists have pointed out the erosion of state boundaries and the emergence of new cultural fields, groups, and practices. Each of these involves novel combinations of cultural items from all over the globe (Garcia Canclini; Wilson and Dissanayake ; Robertson; Featherstone, Lasch, and Robertson; Appadurai; Hannerz; Tomlinson). Broadly speaking, transnationalism is perhaps best described as a process involving cultural practices and experiences that are no longer confined within state boundaries and local, territorially bound traditions (conventionally understood as representing the authentic culture of a people). Its conventional interpretation refers to the movement of peoples across national boundaries. However, the concept might be extended to include the flow of objects and artifacts, as well as subcultures and the practices that sustain them as "communities of meaning" (Mahler, "Theoretical" 77; Kennedy and Roudometof). State boundaries have been eroded by the cross-cultural flow of practices and peoples. This erosion has been crystallized in the popular understanding of globalization as a menacing force breaking down walls of cultural insulation and subjecting people's authentic culture to a brutal form of cultural homogenization (Barber; cf. Epitropoulos and Roudometof). This caricature of "globalization " corresponds to what is referred to as transnationalism "from above," to be sharply contrasted with transnationalism "from below," a process ofempowerment whereby local cultures, workingclass people, and transnational entrepreneurs use cross-cultural connections to their own advantage (Portes; Ong; Mahler, "Theoretical " 66-73). In fact, the sharp juxtaposition between transnationalism and the nation-state is a defining characteristic of the theorization of transnationalism. For example, Glick Schiller and Fourton write that "the paradox of our times, and one that must be central to our understanding ofthe identities and dilemmas of current day immigrants , is that the 'age oftransnationalism' is a time of continuing and even heightening nation-state building processes" (153). The explicit goal of this conceptualization is to point out the duality of social structure as both empowering and constraining social actors (cf. Giddens). I should emphasize that this argument rests on a highly distorted image of contemporary globalization, and that this image is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-1568
Print ISSN
1044-2057
Pages
pp. 361-397
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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