Transnational is a term that has recently been applied to forms of world literature, the context is within the relationships between national literature of countries and the wider forces of global culture. Transnationalism helps to paint a clearer picture between globalization and world literature.

The Origins of Transnationalism in Literature

Globalization has been defined as the closer integration of people and countries of the world which has been forced by unlimited travel and open communications. Added to this reduction of barriers was the flow of knowledge, services, goods and cross border migration. Transnationalism has crept into literary circles to take stock of changing and existing literary representations from countries, states and different regions in the world. Perhaps transnationalism can be better defined as the recognition of the migratory flow of peoples in terms of ideas and concepts. But many transnational literary works focus on relationships between nations and states.

UNESCO in 2000 used the word trans-nationalism to refer to interactions and bonds that linked people across different nation-states. Activities that could be considered as transnationalism could be religious, political and cultural, including literature.

Transnational Communities

In recent years there has been an increase in growth of transnational communities which means it is becoming a strong sociological world category which has occurred due to globalization and has been adopted in cultural and literary fields. Transnationalism as a term really started in the early part of the 20th Century to help with discussions on the national identities within the USA, as the country was positioning itself to be the world’s superpower. This idea sprang up during WWI concerning the politics of America at the time.

Transnationalism and Literature

The real power of transnational literature lies in the return of somebody who has migrated and returns to their homeland. However, in the days when travel was still expensive and time consuming, many immigrants did not return to their country of origin. If you take Australia for example, these migrants became Australians and their writings were multicultural and not transnational. Antigone Kefala and Jim Sakkas were multicultural writers, but they bought into their works an idea of sense of belonging to the new country.

Literary Transnationalism and Globalization

There is now an acceptance and understanding of what exactly identity and nation in literature is. The disorientation of people is no longer an anomaly, but there still is an assumption that holds on to past ideas that nation and language defines a person. This assumption is the backbone of much of the discussion about transnationalism, and it does not take into account the wide differences between literary cultures that have their roots entwined with American and British literary studies. There are scant few traditions of a philological nature that are so held back by romantic attachments of national identity.

Transnationalism may well owe its origins to past history which includes the strong nation and state identity, and the powerful ethos of national values. In part two of this blog we try to uncover more about the background of transnational literature and how it has evolved in recent times.