New Routes for Diaspora Studies

By Sukanya Banerjee; Aims McGuinness et al. | Go to book overview

Afterword
Diaspora and the Language of Neoliberalism

AIMS MCGUINNESS AND STEVEN C. MCKAY

Some categories of analysis are useful for gathering together or cutting apart. Others work better for dissolving received ideas and misconceptions. One solvent that scholars found particularly useful in the late twentieth century was the adjective “global.” Following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the obsolescence of the paradigm of three worlds, commentators turned to “global” and other alternatives such as “transnational” to help them think beyond the limits of deeply ingrained biases of the nation and area studies. “Global” and “transnational” worried away not only spatial but also disciplinary barriers. Calls to uncover the workings of global or transnational phenomena gave an urgency to interdisciplinarity that interdisciplinarity lacked when it was invoked as a virtue in and of itself.

The weaknesses of the “global” and “transnational” as key words became more apparent when the terms were used not as adjectives but as nouns. The placement of a definite article in front of “global” and “transnational” (“the global” or “the transnational”) represented an attempt to imagine novel spatial units of analysis. “Global” and “transnational” became labels that functioned in a way that resembled how nations and world regions, or “areas” such as Latin America or the Middle East, had previously served to clump scholars together along spatial lines during the Cold War. This transmogrification from adjective to noun has too often resulted in the unfortunate and unintended effect of robbing these terms of their virtues as solvents. As useful as “global” and “transnational” were as antidotes to the rigidities of national and area studies, they were too vague and amorphous to be useful as replacements for those rigidities. To say that “the global” or “the transnational” were not

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