DPDF Student Fellowship Competition > DPDF Student Fellowship Competition 2014

Immigrants and their Homeland Connections: Transnationalism in Historical Perspective

Open only to doctoral students based at universities within the U.S.

Workshop dates:
Spring- June 4-8, 2014 in Berkeley, California
Fall- September 17-21, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia

Population movements across borders pull one society onto the territory of another state, leading "here" and "there" to converge. For migration researchers, "transnationalism" is the concept denoting this overlap between receiving and sending societies. While interest in the phenomenon has triggered an outpouring of scholarship across the social sciences, the transnational perspective has also generated great controversy. In particular, questions related to change over time have consistently been a source of dispute. While scholars first asserted that the homeland connections of contemporary international migrants were an unprecedented, late twentieth century phenomenon, most now agree that the earlier, turn-of-the 20th century migrations also generated cross-border connections. However, this conventional opposition between "now" and "then" overlooks the persistent nature of many migrations; it neglects the many flows triggered or continuing during the years in-between the two turn-of-the-century eras of globalization; it also takes for granted what needs to be explained: namely, periodization. This program has the goal of reframing the study of cross-border connections over time, directing attention to the longue duree, taking into account a broad set of migrations, and fostering efforts to understand both how and why cross-border connections appear when they do as well as the processes that weaken these ties and generate conflict in the cross-border dimension.

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Field Directors

Roger Waldinger
Distinguished Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Sociology [ bio ]
Roger Waldinger is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on a wide range of topics in international migration, including immigrant entrepreneurship, immigration policy, assimilation, and the second generation. He has published several books on the subject, including How the Other Half Works: Immigration and the Social Organization of Labor (UCLA 2003) and Strangers at the Gates: New Immigrants in Urban America (UCLA 2001) and has just finished a book manuscript on the topic of this research field: The Cross-Border Connection: Immigrants, Emigrants, And Their Homelands. He has received numerous accolades, including the Distinguished Career Award in the International Migration Section from the American Sociological Association, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and funding from the Russell Sage Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Waldinger received his PhD in Sociology from Harvard University.
Nancy L. Green
Directrice d'études (Professor), Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Centre de Recherches Historiques (Center for Historical Studies) [ bio ]
Nancy L. Green is Directrice d'etudes (Professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, France. Her research interests include methods and practice in comparative history, comparative history of contemporary migration, and the social history of France and the United States in the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries. She has authored and co-authored several books in English and French, including Citizenship and Those Who Leave (University of Illinois 2007). She has also been a visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Yale University, Northwestern University, University of California, Irvine, the Institute of French Studies at New York University, and Addis Abeba University. Green received her PhD from the University of Chicago and a Doctorat d'etat from the Universite de Paris-VII.

Recipients

Oguz Alyanak
Washington University, Sociocultural Anthropology
Living in Sister-Cities: Exploring the Strasbourg-Kayseri Connection
[ project summary ]
Agreements permitting labor migration may have come to a halt in 1974, but movement of people between Turkey and France continues to date by means of family reunifications, marital agreements, resettlement or annual paid-leave/vacations. Focusing on Turkish immigrants in Strasbourg and investigating their movement across three scales—the city (Strasbourg), the regional (across the Franco-German border/Strasbourg-Ortenau Eurodistrict) and the transnational (France-Turkey/Strasbourg-Kayseri)—this project attempts to understand how immigrants experience space through movement. I ask two questions: how has movement across these scales changed since the Labor Force Treaty of 8 April 1965, which marks the day France started recruiting Turkish guest-workers; and how has the changing nature of movement across these scales shaped immigrants' connection to the spaces that they inhabit? I seek answers to these questions through ethnographic research, which entails cartographic comparisons, participant observation, life-histories and in-depth interviews with immigrant and local populations in Strasbourg and Kayseri.
Ashley Black
State University of New York at Stony Brook, History
Writing in Exile: Transnational Guatemala in Cold War Mexico City
[ project summary ]
Throughout the twentieth century, Mexico was a haven for political exiles from around the world. By the 1950s, the progressive policies that turned Mexico City into a highly metropolitan, transnational space gave way to Cold War tensions and created an uneasy relationship between the host state and a new generation of left-wing, politically-engaged migrants. My project focuses on the wave of Guatemalan exiles who sought refuge in Mexico during the 1950s. Drawing on a variety of published and archival sources, I trace the formation of Guatemalan expatriate networks in Mexico City during the early Cold War to show how exile literature served as a form of transnational political engagement. My project explores the significance of the written word in fostering international solidarity, while deepening our understanding of Mexico City as a site of convergence for a wide array of cultural and political actors during the Cold War.
Caitlyn Bolton
City University of New York Graduate Center, Anthropology
Arabic & Prayer in Zanzibar: A Narration of Transoceanic Belonging
[ project summary ]
When the Omani sultan moved the capital of his sultanate across the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar in 1840, there had already been a long history of economic, religious and linguistic exchange. Today, generations from their families' initial migrations and after British colonialism, revolution and the discovery of oil in Oman, descendents of Omanis in Zanzibar retain connection to the concept of homeland through their attitudes toward Arabic and their religious practice—including saying the prayer for travelers outside of their "homeland" (watn). In this archival and ethnographic study I examine the ways in which language and religious practice among descendents of Omani migrants in Zanzibar construct cross-border belonging and identity and participate in a transoceanic imagination of "homeland."
Sara Halpern
Ohio State University, History
The World of 1939 Stood Still For Us: German-Speaking Jews and Emigration from Shanghai, 1945-1955
[ project summary ]
My dissertation uncovers Central European Jewish refugees' post-World War II lives in Shanghai and their subsequent migration to and resettlement in North America and Central Europe. It explores the complications of their emigration caused by the legal and humanitarian infrastructures the Allies created to resolve the massive refugee problem in Europe. Using a variety of sources including internal organizational minutes, diplomatic cables and oral histories, I argue that "Shanghai Jews" encountered a different set of circumstances than refugees in Europe. I also examine the ways in which Shanghai Jews set themselves apart in their memory and behavior from young Jewish survivors in Europe and German Jewish émigrés in the U.S. Unlike Jewish survivors in Europe, Shanghai Jews kept their families intact in the process of another forced emigration after 1945—to Europe or North America.
Steven Hu
University of California, Santa Barbara, Religious Studies
Roots and Routes: Forging Chinese Immigrant Transnational Ties Through Christian Missions, Media, and Kinship
[ project summary ]
Immigrant congregations have long been understood as the center of community life where connections with homelands are forged and preserved. This research examines a Chinese American Christian community in New Jersey across two periods of migration as a node in a wider network of people, ideas, materials, and time. By tracing the flows of people and materials between its sister communities in the United States and China, my study aims to understand how religion and media shape transnational ties with diasporic Chinese communities around the globe. This project suggests a global imaginary derived from religious discourse and kinship ties emplaces Chinese American immigrants in local space and impels them beyond. This study will utilize multi-sited ethnography, participant observation, and content analysis of sermons and media to understand how resources are deployed over immigrant relational networks for the purpose of forging transnational ties.
Ayobami Laniyonu
University of California, Los Angeles, Political Science
Ethnic Distancing, Racial Hierarchy and Transnational Linkages: How Ethnic Politics in the Host Country Influence Transnational Ties
[ project summary ]
My dissertation project investigates how racial and ethnic politics in host societies affect the transnational linkages African immigrants form and the durability of those linkages over time. I focus my attention on the potential causal relationship between practices of intra-racial ethnic distancing (migrant distancing from African Americans) and the durability of migrant transnational practices. Empirically, I adopt a mixed-method approach of historical analysis, semi-structured interviews, surveys, and statistical analysis to explore urban and suburban communities in Texas, Georgia, and Maryland, expanding the domain of the sub-literature that has been largely limited to research in New York City. I frame my work within a perspective that argues that an understanding of how transnational social fields are produced by racial politics is fundamentally necessary to the study of transnationalism over the longue durée, emphasizing the fundamentally racialized character of New World Nation states and New World migration throughout history.
Laura Ruiz Menchaca
Cornell University, Anthropology
Of Palestinians and Chilestinos: Transnational Constructions of Palestinian Identity (working title)
[ project summary ]
The largest Palestinian diaspora community outside of the Middle East is in Chile. According to varying estimates of the size of this community, numbering between 350,000 and 500,000, Chile hosts either the second or third largest Palestinian diaspora community in the world. A significant migratory circuit has flourished between the Bethlehem district (Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala) and three cities in Chile: Santiago, La Calera, and San Felipe since the late 19th century. Examining this largely unstudied phenomenon, my ethnographic and ethnohistorical research examines how Palestinians in this particular migratory circuit have mutually informed, co-constructed, and implemented a sociopolitical Palestinian identity that calls into question traditional understandings associated with national and sub-national boundaries. In the process, I show the entailments such transnational relationships hold for social, political, religious and economic circles.
Ernesto Mercado-Montero
University of Texas at Austin, Latin American Studies
Imagining the Black Carib Nation: Migration and Transnationalism in the Making of the Garifuna Diaspora
[ project summary ]
Forced migrations from West Africa to the Antilles, and subsequently to Central America, are central to the history the Black Caribs. They are a mixed-blood community of African and Amerindian origin who inhabited Saint Vincent Island in the eighteenth century. After the British forced their relocation from the island to Central America in 1797, this community negotiated its freedom with colonial institutions and authorities of nation-states, and navigated a changing socioeconomic panorama. Cultural and political strategies allowed this group—currently known as the Garifunas—to preserve their corporate identity on the Atlantic shores of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. My dissertation examines how, through a series of historical events, the Black Caribs developed a unique idea of and relationship with their homeland. Facing the impossibility of a physical return to Africa and Saint Vincent, they generated spiritual and symbolic connections to these places, constantly refashioning their notion of native land. (150)
Rachel Grace Newman
Columbia University, History
Mexico’s Best and Brightest: Students Abroad and the Transnational Formation of Mexico’s Elite in the Twentieth Century
[ project summary ]
During the twentieth century, many Mexicans argued that government scholarships for study abroad constituted an investment in the country's future. This dissertation asks how the group of Mexican citizens with a foreign education and a transnational lived experience came to form a powerful cadre that has profoundly shaped Mexican society. The dissertation traces the state's shift from the personalistic approach to scholarships prevalent in the early twentieth century toward systematization by the century's end. The project also reconstructs the social history of Mexican students abroad and documents their career trajectories. The object of study is the changing relationship of Mexican scholarship recipients abroad with Mexican officials and institutions. The dissertation engages with three themes, bringing a transnational perspective to each: the study of elites and social class, the history of education, and migration studies. The project will use both archival sources and ethnography.
Hiroyuki Shibata
City University of New York Graduate Center, Sociology
De- and Re-activation of Transnational Connections among Brazilian Nikkeis: An Examination from a Historical Institutional Perspective
[ project summary ]
What contextual and institutional conditions foster a shift in the organizational orientation of migrants from their homeland society to the host society? What conditions reactivate their transnational links to their homeland after a dormant period? My dissertation will explore these questions by examining the changing relations of the Brazilian Nikkeis to Brazil and Japan. Specifically, why did the Nikkeis leave Japan for Brazil in the nation-building era, and then subsequently reorient themselves towards Japan under the global economic restructuring? Moreover, how did their integration into Brazilian and Japanese society take place and change during these periods? I argue that the national and international developments of economy, the idiom of nationhood, and the mode of incorporation into the host society interact with each other and affect together their mode of transnational linkage.
Brian J. Van Wyck
Michigan State University, History
Transnational Civil Servants and Governing Turkish Gastarbeiter in West Germany, 1961-1989
[ project summary ]
As post-war, temporary "guest worker" recruitment from Turkey to West Germany transitioned into permanent immigration, the West German and Turkish states established a system of shared governance for a new population of "German Turks". This system employed "transnational civil servants" – Turkish teachers, imams and social workers – trained and recruited by Turkey to work with Turks in Germany, with material support from the West German state. Transnational civil servants were tasked with fostering and sustaining German Turks' transnational connections with their homeland. This project will examine the reasons behind both state's decision to actively embrace transnationalism, how transnational civil servants negotiated their roles within this system and what room existed for German Turks themselves to resist or contest this state intervention in their social, political and religious lives.
Kamryn Warren
University of Connecticut, Sociology
Intersections of Forced Migration and Transnationalism: Lived Experiences of Refugees
[ project summary ]
While traditionally studies of transnationalism have focused on the lives of labor migrants this study aims to address transnationalism through the experience of refugees; populations that traverse multiple borders and develop social ties across disparate political, geographic, and symbolic borders (Koser 2007). The movement of refugee populations is regulated differently than that of traditional labor migrations and therefore serves as an opportunity to see transnational practices in a new light. This study addresses the major transnational processes of migration and humanitarianism while taking into account historical trends in transnational movements. By using the ethnic group of Lhotschampas Bhutanese refugees as a case study this project traces the social networks and ties of refugees resettled in the US to individuals back in Nepal and Bhutan, and examining the practices, processes, and regulatory mechanisms that aid and deter them from creating and sustaining these transnational ties.