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  • Transnational, Feminist and Intersectional Perspectives on Immigrants and Refugees in Canada:An Introduction
  • Evangelia Tastsoglou, Special Guest Editor (bio)

Since the early 1990s, there has been a burgeoning scholarship of theoretical and empirical contributions to the transnationalism discourse. The global interconnectedness of states, regions, institutions, organizations, groups, individuals, and processes among them, captured by the concept of transnationalism, is understood to be fuelled by technological advancements and global socio-economic transformations and, as such, is a part of the process of capitalist globalization. There is a history of the rise of transnationalism as a field of study, with Canada being a relative latecomer in comparison to the US (Goldring and Krishnamurti 2007), while conceptual approaches to transnationalism are diverging and a matter of debate among social scientists (e.g., Basch, Glick Schiller and Szanton Blanc 1994; Glick Schiller, Basch and Szanton Blanc 1992; Guarnizo and Smith 1998; Mahler 1998; Portes, Guarnizo and Landolt 1999; Sklair 2001). I take transnationalism as having a significant overlap with transnational migration, yet as being a broader concept encompassing a diversity of cross-border or beyond borders multi-field and multi-scalar interactions and interconnections of varying organization, formalization and legality, not involving migration.

Although there has been a debate as to whether, or how much, transnational migration is a new phenomenon, with historical evidence pointing otherwise (Harzig and Hoerder 2006), it is beyond doubt that advancements in information, telecommunication and transportation technologies have given rise to a complexity and variety of movements as well as experience of ties across borders in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that are unprecedented (Goldring and Krishnamurti 2007; Wong and Satzewich 2006). A transnational perspective to migration in particular has meant major challenges to traditional understandings in the field which conceptualize [End Page 1] migration as a single, linear, time-specific, well defined, irrevocable cross-border movement and of immigrants as leaving and severing connections to countries of origin in order to permanently settle in new destination countries. The purpose of this brief introduction is neither to parse out the fine distinctions and systematically compare diverse theories, nor to discuss the scholarly debate and criticism of the transnational turn in migration studies (e.g., Kivisto 2001; Waldinger and Fitzgerald 2004), but to sketch a broad transnational perspective to research on immigrants and refugees in Canada, contributing to the voices of scholars pushing the boundaries of traditional "ethnic studies" beyond Canada and recasting them in transnational, diasporic and postcolonial directions. Drawing eclectically upon key writers and synthesizing concepts and theories in the field, I take a transnational perspective to migration in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to mean, broadly, the following:

  • • Migration is conceptualized as consisting of repeated, multi-directional movements and ongoing economic, political and familial transactions (transnational practices), generating and consolidating cross-border ties (Faist, Fauser and Reisenauer 2013).

  • • These movements and transactions involve not only migrants and nonmigrants, groups, associations and communities (Amelina and Lutz 2019; Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004), but also goods, services, capital and ideas crossing borders (Faist et al. 2013).

  • • Movements and transactions are, in turn, shaped by policies and institutional practices of states or particular sets of states (Glick Schiller and Fouron 1999).

  • Transnational practices result in the creation of "transnational social spaces" that extend across and beyond state borders but also other collectivities or are de-territorialized (Faist et al. 2013); they also result in the creation of multilocal, multi-level structural social transformation (Vertovec 2004).

  • • Ties of individuals are multi-stranded/multi-local, tight and lasting; enabling simultaneous engagement across national borders (Faist et al. 2013).

  • • Transnational social spaces consist of combinations of ties, movements and transactions, positions in networks and organizations, and networks of organizations that cut across state borders. Drawing upon Bourdieu's theory of social fields (1985), Levitt and Glick Schiller conceptualize these spaces more narrowly, as transnational social fields around multilocal occupational, economic, family, political and other relations, organized according to specific rules/logic in each area, and with the relational positions of [End Page 2] actors in competition over the power of definitions and symbolic resources (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004).

  • • Ultimately, transnational social spaces are not only dynamic social processes...


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