Tra n sn atio nalis m : Is i t a G ro w in g F orc e o r in D eclin e B ecau se o f
Natio nalis m

According to UNESCO, Transnationalism can be defined as the ” ?multiple ties and
interactions linking people and institutions across the borders of nation-states” and
activities that “take place on a recurrent basis across national borders”.
Transnationalism has seen a growth with the rising globalisation that indeed many
forms of transnationalist communities are immigrants ?(UNESCO, Transnationalism)
commonly labeled as “Transmigrants” ?(Schiller et al.1992:1) ?. This essay will serve
to assess whether Transnationalism is a growing force or whether it is declining as a
result of nationalism.

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Certain minorities of “transmigrants” have growing transnationalism through the way
they are ethnically aware, serve national interests of country of origin and even gain
political significance in the country of residence. The Grenadian population in New
York fits this description. In the beginning of the 20th century, The Grenadian
Minister of Agriculture and Development visited a “Grenadian owned catering hall in
Brooklyn” and was there met by about 200 Grenadian immigrants. There, he shared
“plans of agricultural development in Grenada” with “Grenada’s Constituency in New
York”, addressing Grenadian immigrants as “Grenadian Ethnics in New York” and
encouraging their part in national development by them convincing their relatives at
home that agriculture is an important activity. Many of those “ethnics” were part of
the “Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce” and hence they were also
encouraged to use their “connections” to help introduce Grenadian agricultural goods
to the United States. Indeed, they were able to achieve a growth in political capital in
New York and invest it back home, have a political presence in the place of
residence as well as influence politics at home ?(Schiller et al.1992:3) ?.

This kind of transnationalism is remarkable in the United States as it is unlike “old
countries, bases its concept of national allegiance (nationalism) upon a vision of the
constitution and a set of shared ideals” ?(The Stanley Foundation 2006:2) ?. The
American attitude towards foreign nationalism of “Unassimilable minorities” such as
Africans, East Europeans, Jews, Muslims and “ravaged decimated” native
Americans is looked at with fear and suspicion in case such subnationalisms “vitiate
the unity of the (American) nation” ?(The Stanley Foundation 2006:3 ?). Slogans like
“America: love it or leave it” and “My country right or wrong but my country” sum up
this attitude of hostility towards such minorities ?(The Stanley Foundation 2006:4) ?.
Therefore, The ability of US Grenadians to possess political power, ownership and
ability to host meetings with important officials to serve national interests at home

and in the US show that despite American nationalist hostility to Caribbean
minorities, transnationalism still remains a growing force.

In some cases, transnationalism seems to be in decline because of nationalism. A
prominent example of this is Islamic transnationalism in Burma in the midst of the
widespread Buddhist nationalism. For many years, discrimination against muslims
has been “imposed by the government, including random arrest, destruction of
mosques, confiscation of property, closing of religious schools, and denial of
citizenship”. Since 2012 “ethno-religious violence organized by Buddhist
fundamentalists against Muslim communities caused grave damage to lives and
properties”. There are four main muslim groups there, the Indian Muslims, Burmese
muslims, Rohingyas and Yunnanese muslims (Chinese) . The Yunnanese group is
especially smaller in numbers however, aware of their “peripheral position” ?(Chang
2014:114) ? have been able to construct their own form of “muslim transnationalism”
and have communities in neighbouring countries: “Thailand, Taiwan, Japan,
Singapore, and the Middle East” and even in western countries despite threats from
the Burmese government and Buddhist nationalist groups. This ensures their
survival as the community sustains itself transnationally with economic support,
migration possibilities and even pilgrimage travels. Indeed, Yunnanese muslims “can
be found in many towns and cities in Burma” ?(Chang 2014:115) ?unlike other groups
that are only concentrated in some parts and are persecuted.
However the anti muslim attacks since 2012 had a toll on the community and its
radiant transnationalism. Although not targeted, they feared persecution and soon
after “cautiously reduced their public religious visibility by avoiding Islamic greetings
among themselves when they are outdoors and curtailing the call for prayers
amplified over microphones from mosques”. Moreover, their population that was
about 10-15 thousand in the mid 1960s, to this day has barely increased indicating
high immigration rates from Burma. Burmese Buddhist nationalism may have caused
a decline in muslim Yunnanese transnationalism in Burma, in a superficial
appearance. However, deeply, feelings of persecution would “strengthen their feeling
of displacement and ethnic identity” ?(Chang 2014:145) ? as ironically, ” the group’s
cohesion has not been weakened despite its members’ “ongoing mobility” and still
have “double attachments as Muslims and as Chinese”, not Burmese and Buddhist.
Nationalism may cause a visible decline in transnationalism however the reality of
the extent of this decline is debatable.

Another proof of growing Transnationalism is the Polish Population in Britain that
has been especially prominent since 2004, following Poland’s entrance into the
European Union where in 2005, there were 340,000 Poles and in 2012, they
increased to 637,000 and the 2nd most spoken language in England was Polish.
Soon after 2004, the migration industry started offering products and services
targeting Polish migrants. Similarly the Polish population in Britain didn’t seem to

integrate into British culture as most migrants were still involved in Polish politics.
The Polish election turnout rate in Britain was 71.59% of their population in Britain in
2005 and though it would be expected that this rate would drop as more time passed
and they became more “British”, ironically it increased to 78.26% by 2007 proving
increased Polish transnationalism. Another phenomenon associated with Polish
migration into Britain was the emergence of the “Saturday Schools”, dedicated to
teaching ethnic Polish kids the Polish Language, culture, Catholicism and create a
community. Those schools have been attended by approximately 20% of the Polish
population in Britain in 2013 and there were about 100-130 of them after 2004 which
to this day are strongly maintained. Poles in Britain are involved in ethnic business
niche, watch Polish media and entertainment, and focus on teaching youngsters the
mother language. Indeed, the Polish population in Britain has a weak command of
English compared to other communities in the same position, like the Indian ?(
Kordasiewicz et al.2017:8) ?.
Many ethnic minorities in Britain have their own representatives in British local
authorities. There are many Polish political organizations and projects in Britain,
however they very rarely cooperate with local authorities. The ‘Londoner – Pole –
Citizen’ project” which was created for this very job couldn’t even be officially
identified in the London Boroughs of Lewisham or Lambeth where a lot of Poles
reside ?( Kordasiewicz et al. 2017:8-9 )
In a study, three groups were examined, 2nd generation British Poles, Poles and
British people. The purpose was to identify how those British Poles identify and if
British culture changed them ?(Lewandowska:218) ?. The results showed that British
Poles were merely “symbolically” British, able to identify British related symbols and
aspects however more Polish “value -correlative” wise. For instance, they showed
strong attachment to Polish Values ?(Lewandowska:221) ?. This is emphasised
through “engagement in the Polish church, several cultural associations and different
kinds of campaigns” ?(Lewandowska:213) ?. They also highly valued their family home
seen as an “exclusive island on exile” and idealize everything Polish, positively
valuing it even though “objectively some of those elements represent negative sides
of Polishness” ?(Lewandowska:221).
The British national perspective on Poles is divided into two “Parallel worlds”. The
first group views Poles as: “dynamic successful people who learn English quickly,
are willing to integrate and become part of the new community” and the second
group views Poles as “Cheats, racists, drunks, losers and people fully dependant on
the welfare state” ?(Fomina 2010:3-4) ? who ” take away jobs from the British” ?(Fomina
2010:8) ?. The latter is what is usually portrayed in British media. It could be hence
concluded that Polish Transnationalism and strong identification and involvement in
Polish affairs has seen growth and strength despite negative perceptions of their
minority in Britain. This could be a result of feeling like strangers and hence building
tight knitted communities eases this. The “us and them” attitude in some Pole’s
reactions to hostilities in the UK proves this: “I am proud to be Polish and proud that I

have achieved so much here” and “I wouldn’t worry if an 18-year-old Brit who has
never worked a day in his life and lives off a welfare benefit makes some comments
about me, someone who works and pays taxes” ?(Fomina 2010:9) ?.

In conclusion, from this essay and the research conducted, it is evident that
transnationalism is a growing/strengthening force amongst transmigrants despite
nationalism in the country of residence, hostility towards certain minorities or the
lengthy time spent in the foreign country that is perceived to have changed a
person’s nationalistic feelings. It was also discussed that even when
transnationalism is forcefully put down and visibly declines, it thrives discreetly. It is
of course impossible to generalise the fluctuation of all types of transnationalism as it
is a broad term that doesn’t always translate to ethnic identity and nationalism.
Nevertheless, Westmoreland states that ?the most common markers of national
identity are language, ethnicity, and religion” ?(Westmoreland 2015:7) ?. Thus, it is
natural for minorities who share such deep-rooted aspects, and commonly similar
experiences, to connect and relate with each other, identifying with their ethnic-
national identity across borders,”transnationally”.


? United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation,
al-migration/glossary/trans-nationalism/ ? (accessed 3 April 2018).

? Schiller, N. and Basch, L. and Blanc-Szanton, C (1992) Transnationalism: A
New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration. Available at:

? The Stanley Foundation (2006) America’s Uncomfortable Relationship With
Nationalism. Available at:

? Chang, WC. (2014) Islamic Transnationalism: Yunnanese Muslims:Cornell
University Press. Available at:

? Kordasiewicz, A. and Sadura, P. (2017) Migrations, engagement and
integration of Poles in the UK and in London Borough of Lewisham – research
and data review within the Londoner-Pole-Citizen Project. Available at:

? Lewandowska, E. More Polish or More British? Identity of the Second
Generation of Poles Born in Great Britain. Available at:

? Fomina, J (2010) Parallel worlds – self-perception of Polish migrants in the
United Kingdom: warsaw: Fundacja Instytut Spraw Publicznych. Available at:

? Westmoreland, JB (2015) The Relationship Between National Identity And
State Borders:Appalachian State University. Available at:


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