"Citizens without Borders"?: Discussions of Transnationalism and Forced Migrants at the Ninth Conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, Sao Paulo, Brazil, January 2005

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The significance of transnational perspectives at the ninth conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) marks a key change in the development of work on both forced migration and migrant transnationalism. A transnational perspective highlights significant policy interventions that can be made in the search for durable solutions to refugee displacement; most significantly, recognizing that a refugee's community may be spread on a global scale, yet is nonetheless significant in supporting their own efforts to overcome the difficulties of their situation. It is equally important, however, to recognize that transnational activites do not always support pluralistic solutions to conflict. The transnational engagements of forced migrants also challenge a number of assumptions of existing transnational perspectives by directing attention to forms of exchanges and communication that do not necessarily involve the movements of people. Interest in transnational activities is currently concentrated amongst researchers working in the wealthier countries of the global North. Further work may determine if alternative perspectives are more appropriate for research based in the South.


La signification des perspectives transnationales au neuvieme congres de l'Association internationale des etudes sur la migration forcee (IASFM) marque un jalon dans lelaboration du travail sur la migration forcee et le transnationalisme migrant. Une perspective transnationale met en relief les interventions significatives en matiere de politique qui peuvent etre entreprises en vue de trouver des solutions durables au deplacement des refugies. Elle permet, en particulier, de reconnaitre qu'une communaute de refugies pouvant etre disseminee a l'echelle mondiale joue tout de meme un role capital pour aider ses membres a surmonter les difficultes auxquelles ils font face. Toutefois, il faut reconnaitre que les activites transnationales ne favorisent pas toujours des solutions plurielles aux conflits. Les engagements transnationaux des migrants forces remettent aussi en question un grand nombre de presupposes sur les perspectives transnationales courantes en insistant sur des formes d'echanges et de communication qui n'impliquent pas necessairement des deplacements de personnes. Les activites transnationales interessent actuellement les chercheurs oeuvrant dans les pays les mieux nantis du nord planetaire. Des travaux ulterieurs permettront de determiner si d'autres perspectives sont plus appropriees a la recherche effectuee dans le sud.


Migrant transnationalism has typically been associated with voluntary migrants. Its connection with mobility, and particularly regular returns to the point of origin, initially precluded refugees and other groups of forced migrants. More recently, however, it has also raised interest in the context of refugee movement. (1) Of the three traditionally conceived durable solutions for refugees, two of them, resettlement and return, do require international mobility. Work on refugee transnationalism has also been encouraged, in part, by a change of emphasis to the non-mobile aspects of transnational linkages, that are particularly relevant in the case of local integration and resettlement but also in the large number of unresolved refugee situations. It is therefore not surprising that transnationalism formed a significant theme of the ninth biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM), that was held in Sao Paulo from January 9 to 13, 2005, and entitled The Search for Solutions: Achievements and Challenges.

There is still no broadly accepted definition of transnationalism; indeed the concept itself continues to raise controversy, but, after more than a decade of scholarship in the field, the boundaries of what is meant by migrant transnationalism are becoming more clearly defined. …


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