Blurred Borders: Transnational Migration between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States

Blurred Borders: Transnational Migration between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States

Blurred Borders: Transnational Migration between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States

Blurred Borders: Transnational Migration between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States

Synopsis

In this comprehensive comparative study, Jorge Duany explores how migrants to the United States from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico maintain multiple ties to their countries of origin.

Chronicling these diasporas from the end of World War II to the present, Duany argues that each sending country's relationship to the United States shapes the transnational experience for each migrant group, from legal status and migratory patterns to work activities and the connections migrants retain with their home countries. Blending extensive ethnographic, archival, and survey research, Duany proposes that contemporary migration challenges the traditional concept of the nation-state. Increasing numbers of immigrants and their descendents lead what Duany calls "bifocal" lives, bridging two or more states, markets, languages, and cultures throughout their lives. Even as nations attempt to draw their boundaries more clearly, the ceaseless movement of transnational migrants, Duany argues, requires the rethinking of conventional equations between birthplace and residence, identity and citizenship, borders and boundaries.

Excerpt

During the 1990s border became a buzzword in the social sciences and the humanities, including anthropology, sociology, history, literary criticism, and cultural studies. Scholars were increasingly disenchanted with territorially grounded concepts of nation, state, citizenship, identity, and language, which have long dominated discussions about migration. in turn, the expansion of migrant, refugee, exile, and other displaced populations dramatized the limitations of state control and surveillance over citizens. As Hastings Donnan and Thomas Wilson (1999: 4) point out, “the concept of transnationalism, which has become central to many interpretations of postmodernity, has as one of its principal referents international borders, which mark off one state from another and which sometimes, but not as often as many people seem to suppose, set off one nation from another.”

In a now classic essay, Michael Kearney (1991) differentiated “borders” from “boundaries” in the contemporary world. For him, borders are the often hybrid geographic and cultural zones between nations, while boundaries are the legal spatial delimitations of states. Thus, the borders and boundaries of nation-states often do not correspond neatly to each other. in particular, the crisscrossing of cultural borders and legal boundaries by migrants disturbs the conventional dichotomy between “us” and “them.” As Kearney writes, “‘transnationalism’ implies a blurring, or perhaps better said, a reordering of the binary cultural, social, and epistemological distinctions of the modern period” (55). Moreover, “peoples that span national borders are ambiguous in that they in some ways partake of both nations and in other ways partake . . .

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