Transnationalism changes many things, from literature to food, languages and traditional activities. In other words, transnationalism affects culture. But what is transnationalism? Definitions do vary but most center on exchanges and connections crossing borders, in some respects it is a little bit being neither here nor there. Exchanges can mean many things but in transnationalism these exchanges take form in the swapping of ideas and values from one culture to the next. And therefore, it is not just the migrant that changes, it is also the peoples and places the migrant chooses to make their new home.

So transnationalism gives us a whole new way of looking at migration, and focuses the spotlight on the connections that any migrants establish between countries. Transnationalism looks at wider issues of social change in response to movement of people.

The Relevance of a Transnational Perspective

Taking a transnational perspective on migration is becoming more and more relevant due to globalization. With travel and communication becoming faster and cheaper it is far easier for two different cultures to be connected across borders.

Migrant patterns have also greatly changed over the past two decades or so, no longer is the migration of a peoples just a permanent thing, quite often they are medium to short term. These migrations also cause frequent back and forth movements to points of origin. The term Chain Migration refers to a network that has set up by migrants that encourages family and friends to move to one particular area or city. Migrants today have a completely different life-cycle then that of migrants a hundred years ago. Today migrants may be educated in one place, raise a family in another, and retire in a third.

The Swapping of Cultures

Every migrant can act as an agent of change, as well as a subject of transnationalism. It really depends on how they interact and engage in their new environment. This points out that everything a migrant does might not affect change. In some cases, the first generation of migrants may not affect transnationalism, and this only happens with the second or third generations. Migrant peoples can effect and get involved with cultural exchanges in a greater or lesser degree. Somebody who migrates temporarily will not affect culture as much as somebody that migrates permanently. Migrants that move for a higher level of education tend to get in more elevated positions of influence and can affect things to a greater level.

At this point we must discuss the fact that transnationalism is also just as much about the people’s left behind as it is for those that migrate. As their families who have moved return on visits they bring some of their new culture from the new host nation back with them. This could include political view points from a different perspective, so both beneficial and detrimental effects could be achieved from transnationalism. These effects are on both nations, the migrants, and their families. In part two of this blog we will look at what opportunities can arise from successful transnationalism, and how cultures can be enriched by the exchange of ideas.