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<nettime> Nikos Papastergiadis: TOC & Introduction to The Turbulence of Migration

From: "Nikos Papastergiadis" <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2001 4:34 PM
Subject: TOC & Introduction to The Turbulence of Migration

The Turbulence of Migration
Globalization, Deterritorialization and Hybridity
By Nikos Papastergiadis
(Polity Press 2000)


1 Introduction: The Turbulence of Migration

2 Mapping Global Migration

3 The Ability to Move: Defining Migrants

4 Globalization and Migration

5 The Deterritorialization of Culture

6 The Limits of Cultural Translation

7 Philosophical Frameworks and the Politics of Cultural Difference

8 Tracing Hybridity in Theory

9 Conclusion: Diasporic Communities


Introduction: The Turbulence of Migration

The subjects of history, once the settled farmers and citizens, have now
become the migrants, the refugees, the Gasterbeiter, the asylum seekers, the
urban homeless.

Migration, in it endless motion, surrounds and pervades almost all aspects
of contemporary society. As has often been noted, the modern world is in a
state of flux and turbulence. It is a system in which the circulation of
people, resources and information follows multiple paths. The energy and
barriers that either cause or deflect the contemporary patterns of movement
have both obvious and hidden locations. While nothing is utterly random, the
consequences of change are often far from predictable. For the most part, we
seem to travel in this world without that invisible captain, who can see
ahead and periodically warn us that, "it is necessary to return to our seat
and fasten our security belts". The journey nowadays is particularly
treacherous with financial storms which can break out in Hong Kong and have
repercussions in New York, acid rains which are generated in the North drift
South, the global emission of CFC gases directly effects the growth of the
hole in the ozone layer above the Antartic, the threat of atomic fallout
looms larger as the nuclear arsenals of thirty or more countries are
positioned along jagged lines of brinkmanship, and the systemic flooding of
the ranks of the unemployed as the chilling technology of economic
rationalization bites into every locale. These are just some of the known
sources of fear. There may be other storms on the horizon which we cannot
name, let alone control, that force people to move.

The turbulence of modern migration has destabilized the routes of movement
and created uncertainty about the possibilities of settlement. The scale and
complexity of movement that is occuring currently has never been witnessed
before in history, and its consequences have exceeded earlier predictions.
To take account of this excess, migration must be understood in a broad
sense. I see it not just as a term referring to the plight of the 'burnt
ones', the destitute others who have been displaced from their homelands. It
is also a metaphor for the complex forces which are integral to the radical
transformations of modernity. The world changes around us and we change with
it, but in the modern period the process of change has also altered
fundamental perceptions of time and space. Countless people are on the move
and even those who have never left their homeland are moved by this restless

These changes have a profound effect on the way we understand our sense of
belonging in the world. It is impossible to give an exact location and date
for the emergence of modernity. Modernity has had multiple birthplaces.
Giddens's general definition of modernity, as referring to the institutional
changes that took place somewhere around the 18th century, is about as
accurate as one can get.  Throughout the modern period, most people have
understood their sense of belonging in terms of an allegiance to a nation
state. This task of conferring clear and unambiguous forms of belonging was
never a straightforward operation. Nation states were from the outset
composed of people with different cultural identities. Among the central
aims of the project of nation building, was the unification of these diverse
peoples under a common identity, and the regulation of movement across their
territorial borders. However, the complex patterns of movement across
national boundaries and the articulation of new forms of identity by
minority groups, that emerged in the past couple of decades, have
destabilized the foundations of the nation state.

This book seeks to examine the interconnected processes of globalization and
migration and to explore their impact on the established notions of
belonging. It seeks to question the dominant forms of citizenship and
cultural identity which defined belonging according to national categories
and exclusive practices of identification, by exploring the emergent forms
of diasporic and hybrid identitites. There is a great urgency in our need to
rethink the politics of identity. If, the historical and cultural field that
shapes contemporary society is increasingly diverse and varied, then we can
no longer exclusively focus on the traditions and institutions that have
taken root in a given place over a long historical period. The identity of
society has to reflect this process of mixture that emerges whenever two or
more cultures meet.

The political will to adopt such an approach towards migrant communities and
minority groups has not been readily forthcoming. While there is a growing
recognition that we are living in a far more turbulent world, a critical
language and affirmative structures to address these changes have been
lagging behind. A haunting paradox lurks at the centre of all claims to
national autonomy: while the flows of global movement are proliferating, the
fortification of national boundaries is becoming more vigilant. Every nation
state is at once seeking to maximise the opportunities from trans-national
corporations, and yet closing its doors to the forms of migration that these
economic shifts stimulate. New pressures and new voices have emerged in the
cultural and political landscape. Even countries like Germany and Japan,
which have boasted of their ethnic homogeneity and aggresively restricted
the right to citizenship, are increasingly confronted with the inevitability
of seeing themselves as a multi-ethnic society. As nation states are losing
more and more of their power to regulate activities within their territory,
they are becoming increasingly aggressive about the defence of their
borders. Tougher laws against asylum seekers, the rounding up of gypsies and
ruthless eviction of 'economic migrants' are part of the ways in which
governments vent their frustration in a world where they have seemingly lost
control but dare not admit it. The need for global action to address local
issues has never been more necessary, but there are few signs of
supra-national cooperation, nor any new agencies with the powers and
responsibilities to address human needs on a global scale.

New Concepts for a Turbulent World

The twin processes of globalization and migration have produced changes in
the geo-political landscape that have compelled social scientists to
re-think their conceptual frameworks. Since the 1970s, there has been a
growing legitimacy of multicultural perspectives in places like Canada and
Australia, which have questioned the dominant political categories for
defining citizenship according to birthplace and residence within a nation
state. Previously, most of the literature on migration was staked between
the automatic assimilation and the gradual integration of the migrant into
the host society. As 'ethnic elites' gained authority within the cultural
and political circles of the dominant society, they began to argue in favour
of new models for representing the process of cultural interaction, and to
demonstrate the negative consequences of insisting upon the denial of the
emergent forms of cultural identity. Multicultural perspectives on political
rights and cultural exchange thus began to have a dynamic role in the
reshaping of contemporary society.

Since the 1980s, epecially in the American and French academy, the concept
of class, had come under scrutiny. Conservative scholars like Francis
Fukuyama saw the collapse of the Soviet Union as the ultimate triumph of
liberalism, and the 'end of history' in terms of class struggle. Samuel
Huntington took a more pessimistic view of the global picture, noting the
ascendence of Islam, the rising influence of the East, and predicted
cataclysmic 'clashes of civilization'. Structural changes were definitely
occuring, the imperial orders were being dismantled and reconfigured,
multi-ethnic societies were becoming the norm, and in contradistinction to
these patrician scholars I believe that the more sober reappraisal of the
fundamental social divisions, was offered by the new intellectual movements
of feminism and postcolonialism.

The concept of space, which in the 1990s was given greater theoretical
significance by British geographers like Doreen Massey, added a crucial
dimension in the rethinking of the relationship between migration and
globalization. In the past there was a tendency to discuss migration in the
mechanistic terms of causes and consequences. Space was often seen as a
vacant category, reduced to a neutral stage upon which other forces were at
play in the narratives of migration. Space was rarely seen as an active part
in the field of identity formation. However, it is increasingly evident that
contemporary migration has no single origin and no simple end. It is an
ongoing process and needs to be seen as an open voyage. Departures and
returns are rarely, if ever, final, and so it is important that we
acknowledge the transformative effect of the journey, and in general
recognise that space is a dynamic field in which identities are in a
constant state of interaction. This would enable us to shift the discourse
on migration from merely an explanation of either the external causes or the
attribution of motivation, to an examination of the complex relationships
and perceptual shifts that are being formed through the experience of
movement. Just as in science there is the new consensus that every entity is
composed of interacting forces, there is now an emerging debate in the
humanities and social sciences that agency is in a state of mutual
transformation with its surrounding structures. Hence, the cultural identity
of the migrant will need to be seen as being partly formed by and in the
journey, or on what Paul Virilio calls the "trajective", and not as a locked
item that preceded the very act of movement.

These political transformations and intellectual debates on nationalism and
multiculturalism, class and agency, and space and time provide the broad
horizons of this book. More specifically my aim is to explore the parameters
of three questions. First, what are the available models for mapping
migration and explaining social change? Second, how is migration linked to
the broader social changes associated with globalization? Third, how do
concepts like deterritorialization, translation, recognition and hybridity
expand our understanding of identity and culture in plural societies?

Throughout this book the term turbulence appears. I have adopted it from
James Rosenau's work in international relations in order to break out of the
mechanistic models for explaining migration. Turbulence is not just a useful
adjective for describing the unsettling effect of an unexpected force that
alters your course of movement, it is also a metaphor for the broader levels
of interconnection and interdependency between the various forces that are
in play in the modern world. The flows of migration across the globe are not
explicable by any general theory. In the absence of structured patterns of
global migration, with direct causes and effects, turbulence is the best
formulation for the mobile processes of complex self-organization that are
now occuring. These movements may appear chaotic but there is a logic and
order within it. An analogy can be drawn with phenomena that were once
thought to lack any structure, like turbulent flows, and which are now
understood as possessing intricate patterns of interconnection. As Manuel de
Landa noted "a turbulent flow is made out of a hierarchy of eddies and
vortices inside more eddies and vortices."  The internal structures of
migration have often gone unnoticed. Both the drag effect that is produced
on migrants as they are caught in the flow of movement, and the complex
linkages that are generated to sustain a momentum are often overshadowed by
the attention external forces. I am concerned with the inter-relationship
between the energy for movement and the effects on its surrounding. What I
aim to offer in this book is an account of how the experience of movement
has produced novel forms of belonging and stimulated shifts in our
understanding of contemporary culture.

To address the contemporary problematic of migration, requires a new
cross-disciplinary approach. Migration studies are no longer confined to the
domain of sociology, demography, politics and economics. Key contributions
have also been made by anthropology, history, psychology, geography,
philosophy, cultural studies and art criticism. Disciplines like literary
theory and political economy, which a decade ago were considered to be poles
apart, have now discovered new borders of interest. These new studies have
increasingly drawn attention to the complex links between diffuse levels of
experience and deep structural changes. For instance, concepts like
deterritorialization and hybridity do not reside exclusively in any
particular discipline, they have served as 'bridging concepts', extending
the parameters of analysis and highlighting a mode of explanation which is
alert to the role of difference and contingency in contemporary society.

The critical debates on globalization have also significant implications for
both migration studies and the classical sociological and anthropological
definitions of the boundaries of society and culture. From the moral
questions of how judgements are posed across the boundaries of cultural
difference , to the political debates on the future of the nation-state and
the institutions of governance in a globalized world , there is now an
extensive programme of re-thinking conceptual frameworks. Migration, in its
contemporary form, also needs to be understood as an interminable and
multifarious process. It could be seen as both the all too visible problem,
and the invisible catalyst in what Habermas called 'the incomplete project
of modernity'.   Thus the aim of chapters 2 and 3 is to establish a
conceptual framework which challenges some of the conventional definitions
of migrants and seeks to present broader categories of belonging in

The twin processes of globalization and migration have shifted the question
of cultural identity from the margins to the center of contemporary debates.
Cultural identity, in one form or another, preoccupies the construction of
the public sphere. The definition of a criminal code, the provisions for
public housing, the rules for immigration, the services established within
health and welfare programmes, conception of madness and disability, the
understanding and evaluation of artistic production, the formulation of
academic curriculum are all issues which can no longer be addressed without
some reference to the discourse of anti-racist discrimination, equal
opportunity and affirmative action. Increased recognition and negotiation of
cultural difference has challenged the very foundations of almost every
institution or practice that shapes the contours of social life.

Both the excesses of political correctness, and the ethnocentric backlash
against multiculturalism, are symptoms of a deeper uncertainty as to how to
measure and manage the viability of cultural differences within a given
social space affected by globalizing forces. The structures of the local are
increasingly formed by elements and ideas from distant sources. As ideas are
rapidly imported from elsewhere and membership of local institutions is
altered, the identity of society is subjected to new pressures.

Globalization, as I argue in chapter 4, has raised new questions about the
institutions of governance and exposed the limits of the nation state. The
influence of transnational corporations, the integration of financial
services within the networks of the global stock markets, the ceding of
political power to supra-national bodies like the European Union, the
deregulatory pressures of global competitiveness in the labour market, the
emergence of new social movements to tackle global ecological issues, have
all, for good or for bad, undermined the legitimacy and putative autonomy of
the nation state. While the modern nation state demanded the undivided
loyalty of its subjects, insisted on sovereignty over its territory, and
sought to define the identity of its community in singular terms, it
remained intrinsically resistant to the rights of ethnic minorities and
diasporic subjectivities. Migration may have spawned new diasporic
communities and facilitated the critique of the nation state, but this in
itself has not necessarily produced greater levels of freedom and cross
cultural understanding. For, if it was difficult to secure the terms by
which minorities could find democratic forms of representation within the
political system of the nation-state, it now seems infinitely more
precarious under the conditions of globalization.

The 'chaos' of Global Migration

The current flows of migrant labour are now fundamentally different to
earlier forms of mass migration. There have been dramatic shifts in the
destinations of migration, restrictions on residency and strict limitations
on settlement. The great metropolitan centers of the North and West; New
York, Paris, London - in terms of migrant influx - have been eclipsed by the
capitals of the East and South. Is this because the prospects of work are
better elsewhere, or are there other reasons? There are currently more
construction cranes in operation within the new economic zones of China than
there are anywhere else in the world. The world's tallest building is
neither a cathedral in Europe, nor an office block in New York, but the twin
towers of Kuala Lumpa. Mexico City is swelling at a rate that is stretching
its urban infrastructure to breaking point. After the Chernobyl nuclear
disaster over 400,000 people were displaced; the ecology of their homelands
ruined for centuries to come. Today people are on the move for a variety of
reasons. NAFTA agreements force peasants to be on the move across the
Americas; political and ethnic clashes have displaced millions from their
homes in Africa; some of the most educated women in the Philippines accept
exploitative contracts to work as housemaids in the Gulf States. Do all
these people fit under the term migrant?

The early mappings of international migrations were predominantly
Eurocentric. They were defined either in relation to the colonial ventures
from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, or to the processes of
industrialization and rapid urbanization in the late nineteenth and
twentieth century. Between 1500 - 1850 approximately 10 million slaves were
transported from Africa to the Americas. Between 1815 - 1925 over 25 million
Britons were settled in predominantly urban areas of the colonies. The
'classical period' of migration referred to the trajectory of peasants, from
the peripheral-rural based societies to the core-industrial countries of
Western Europe, United States, Canada and Australia.

For many migrants the first sight of their new country was caught from the
deck of their ship. After the First World War, most migrants heading for the
United States would have probably disembarked and gone through immigration
procedures on Ellis Island, just off New York. The dock and hall of Ellis
Island is now part of a museum. At the end of the twentieth century, the
aeroplane has become the dominant means of mass transport. Today, migrants
mostly arrive by descending into what Marc Auge calls, the "non places" of
modern airports.  The journey from a Third World village to a First World
city can now be calculated in terms of hours. The greater levels of mobility
in modernity, however, have not been reciprocated by more hospitable forms
of reception.

The current trends of global migration reveal a far more multidirectional
phase. In this context, migration is neither directed to, nor exclusively
generated by, the needs of the North and the West. The vast majority of
migrants are no longer moving exclusively to the North and the West, but
also between the new industrial epicenters within the South and the East.
While for the earlier periods of migration, movement was generally mapped in
linear terms, with clear coordinates between center and periphery, and
definable axial routes, the current phase can best be described as
turbulent, a fluid but structured movement, with multi-directional and
reversible trajectories. The turbulence of migration is evident not only in
the multiplicty of paths but also in the unpredictability of the changes
associated with these movements. However, this has not meant that the
pattern of movement is random and and the direction is totally open-ended.
There are also strict barriers and firm counter-forces which either resist
or exploit the flows of human movement, just as there are 'passengers' who
carefully control their journeys rather than being swept toward unknown

The relationship between work and migration has always been unstable and
ambivalent. During the colonial period migrants from the 'mother country'
were selectively encouraged to 'settle' in the 'new' societies. The rapid
urban expansion and industrialization in the nineteenth century also
demanded that some migrants were also recruited when certain needs arose,
and expelled when their services were no longer deemed necessary. However,
in the current geo-political climate these relationships have become even
more jagged. Where migration is now regulated through contractual or
negotiated terms, the civil and work rights of migrants are severely
limited. Where migration is permitted for temporary periods, policing is
extremely draconian and the abuse of human rights is rife. An increasing
number of migrants are taking employment and entry into countries on an
illegal basis. The migrant in all these circumstances effectively lives in a
police-state - susceptible to exploitation and constantly in fear of
punishment and deportation.

Along with the shifts in global geo-politics there have been profound
changes in the patterns of economic and cultural exchanges. The revolution
in information technology, which has coincided with the restructuring of
capitalist markets and the dismantling of the socialist command economies,
has had a drastic impact on the forms of migrant labour. The new dogma of
'flexibility' in the workplace has meant that working class communities can
no longer assume that employment can be guaranteed in their particular
locale. Declining public transport and congested roads has also meant that
the journey from home to work is often increasing. Commuting times of 2-3
hours a day is not uncommon, in Los Angeles and Moscow. Meanwhile
politicians across the world are instructing their labour forces that, in
order to be competitive in a global market and in a technologically
advancing world, they must accept the inevitability of both the mobility of
the workplace and the redundancy of traditional skills.

The emergence of global media industries has also meant a greater degree of
cultural interpenetration. Ideas developed in one place are increasingly
promoted and circulated on a global scale. While this has not necessarily
meant that the patterns of reception and identification with the global
media forms have been homogeneous, it has implied that each locale has to
both mediate signs at a greater rate and also confront a wider variety of
codes. Contemporary cultural systems are criss-crossed by signals from
diverse sources, with the result that a culture can no longer be understood
as merely reflecting the particular practices which emerge within a specific
territorial zone. Certain cultural practices may be concentrated or
intensified within a given territory, but the politics of cultural ownership
and the practices of dissemination are often extended beyond their
territorial boundaries. It is from this perspective that globalization and
migration have led to, what I describe in chapter 5, as the
deterritorialization of culture.

Migration, it must be stressed, is not a unique feature of our modern times.
>From the perspective of the frantic mobility of the present it is tempting
to imagine the past as a stable and relatively isolationist period. Yet,
people have travelled vast distances throughout history. Examples of cross
cultural exchanges, complex networks of trade and translocal identities are
ever present throughout history. Anthropologists have painstakingly examined
how different communities borrow religious symbols from each other and
develop rituals for integrating different types of strangers. These
strategies for internalizing difference have been remarkably elastic,
varying from the incorporation of the 'prized' bride of a neighbouring
community, to the introduction of a liminal position for the anthropologist.
All cultures seem to have mechanisms for making a limited space for others,
or for selectively absorbing strangers as 'one of their kind'.
Archaeologists have also mapped extraordinary trading routes in ancient
history. For instance, the discovery of traces of silk and cocaine in
Egyptian tombs has suggested possible links between the Mediterranean, China
and South America. Our knowledge of the extent of ancient sea travel is
still very crude. Even with Thor Heyerdahl's brave reconstructions of the
ancient techniques for trans-Atlantic and cross-Pacific routes, we have only
begun to gain a glimpse of the persistence and breadth of pre-modern forms
of long distance navigation.

We do not know when the Egyptian influence on the islands began but the
Phoenicians gradually took over. We know little of the origins of the
Phoenicians or of the kind of ships they first constructed. Reed boats were
originally used among their nearest neighbours east and south, and even
west; for an engraved ring from ancient Crete shows a crescent-shaped reed
boat with transverse lashings, mast and cabin. ... No one will ever be able
to retrace the routes of all these vessels or reconstruct the relationships
between all these diversified civilizations, intimately interlocked and yet
clearly different as they were, partly imposed on earlier local cultures,
and nourished by different rulers, in different geographical environments.
Who will ever identify the mariners of the fourth century BC who carried a
jar of gold and copper Mediterranean coins to Corvo Island in the outer
Azores, a point nearer to North America than to Gilbraltar? Seeking fortune
or refuge, thousands of ships left their home ports during antiquity,
leaving no written records. ... True the people of America had not seen
ribbed ships of wooden planks before the arrival of Columbus, but the people
of Morocco and of the entire Mediterranean and of Mesopotamia had seen reed
boats, like those that survive in America.

However, until the invention of the 'tall ships', the railway, steamships,
automobiles and ultimately the aeroplane, the frequency of movement, the
volume of migrants, and the distance that could be crossed, was restricted.
Today there are over 100 million international migrants and 27 million
stateless refugees. This means that there are more people living in places
that are outside their homeland than at any previous point in history. The
turbulence of migration is not only evident in the sheer volume of migrants,
but also by the emergence of new subjects, communication networks and forms
of economic dependencies. The modern migrant no longer conforms to the
stereotypical image of the male-urban-peasant. Women in manufacturing,
electronic assembly lines and domestic workers are now at the frontline of
global migration. Over 65% of the migrants from Sri Lanka and 78% from
Indonesia are women.  The value of remittances sent to the homelands of
foreign workers has been estimated as being over $10 billion. These
transfers of payments are second in value to the trade in crude oil. In
places like the Philippines and Albania the major contributor to the
national economy is accredited to the earnings of foreign workers.  The
paradigm of the nation-state as the principle anchor in the conferral of
identity has also blinkered our understanding of migrant flows.

Modernity and Migration

This book does not seek to track the migration patterns of a specific group,
nor does it measure the impact of migration on a particular society. The
main concern is to examine the inter-relationships between modernity and
migration. Thus the flows of movement are not identified in terms of their
effects on a given time and place. Most studies on migration are also
examinations of the boundaries and structures of belonging to a nation
state. While there are many studies which have demonstrated the significant
role of migrants in establishing 'new societies', few have made the larger
claims that migration is a central force in the consitution of modernity.
The significance of migration is neither confined to either the modest
contribution of individual migrants, nor capture by the monumental
structures of upheaval, but needs to be understood in a broader framework.
The tension between movement and settlement is constitutive of modern life.
As Derrida noted, the condition of exile is at the center of the nation's
culture.  By not confining the significance of migration in terms of the
paths into and alterations within the nation state I am not denying the
value or relevance of this body of scholarship. The nation state is still an
active force in the regulation of migration. We do not live in a borderless
world. The significance of migration in the formation of nation states has
only begun to gain its proper recognition. My concern with the broader
patterns of global migration is not driven by indifference to or ignorance
of such tasks, but is motivated by a parallel need to outline the general
context in which migration is occuring and to evaluate the available
concepts for representing this phenomenon.

The precise nexus between migration and modernity is still unclear. The
metaphor of the journey, the figure of the stranger, and the experience of
displacement, have been at the center of many of the cultural
representations of modernity. Migrant artists and writers like Picasso and
Joyce are among the most celebrated and perplexing figures of modernism. In
chapter 6, I have attempted to expand the investigation into the
relationship between an exilic consciousness and the modern sensibility, by
looking at the contemporary aesthetic practices of borrowing and
translation. Artists are not only among the most mobile members of a
community, but they are often outriders of the transformations between the
local and the global.

Within social theory, however, the links between the experience of migration
and the vision of modernity have remained obscured due to a tendency to
conceptualise change as an external force. Throughout this century the
'sociological imagination' has manifested a tendency to become trapped
within a mechanistic paradigm that, while preoccupied with the institutional
and structural forces, lost sight of the subtle inter-subjective processes
of everyday life. I wish to focus on a number of broad characteristics and
changes that were initiated by modernity: the uneven transformation in the
relationship between the urban and the rural, the valourization of
technology over tradition, the oscillation between the social values of
secularism and religion, the conflict between individuality and
collectivity. Studies on modernity, whether they be empirical or
interpretative, have been primarily investigations of the transition between
these positions. Social scientists sought to measure change, to identify the
coordinates or the symbols that mark the passage out of one stage and the
emergence of another. But this attention to the beginnings and ends of the
journey has often obscured the interminable process, the unending journey of

Movement is not just the experience of shifting from place to place, it is
also linked to our ability to imagine an alternative. The dream of a better
life and the nightmares of loss are both expressed by the metaphor of the
journey. It is not only our 'life narrative' but the very 'spirit of our
time' which seems to be haunted by this metaphor. The journey of modernity -
which sought to base action on the solid foundations of reason, which sought
to build a rational order that would supersede all previous forms of waste,
folly and mystification, which believed that truth and proof could
substitute for dogma and religion - has turned out to be an endless march
into the unknown. The future which was filled with such promises of
progress, liberation and emancipation is now darkened by fear and
insecurity. Zygmunt Bauman, one of the most astute and sober critics of the
transformations of modernity, argues that the preset destination of
modernity is now unattainable and that there has been a break in the vision
of progress and control. His account of post-modernity is not an apocalyptic
declaration of ending, nor a naive proclamation of succession, but a
bitter-sweet appraisal of the way modernity has lost its direction and
driving force. The measurement of modernity against its own goals has
revealed that its aspirations and promises can no longer be plotted onto a
linear graph, or situated in a privileged location. At this juncture,
modernity does not seem to follow a clear path, progress drifts and tumbles.
As Bauman noted, the distinctive feature of post-modernity is that while it
can no longer predict what lies ahead, there is still the insistence that it
is better to keep moving.

Modernity is what it is - an obsessive march forward - not because it always
wants more, but because it never gets enough; not because it grows more
ambitious and adventurous, but because its adventures are bitter and its
ambitions frustrated. The march must go on because any place of arrival is
but a temporary station. No place is privileged, no place is better than
another, as from no place the horizon is nearer than from any other. This is
why the agitation and flurry lived out as a forward march; this is, indeed,
why the Brownian movement seems to acquire a front and a rear, and
restlessness a direction; it is the detritus of burnt-out fuels and the soot
of extinct flames that mark the trajectories of progress.

The restless trajectories of modernity can also be witnessed through the
transformations in the representations of identity. Bauman notes that the
modern construction of the human subject as a peripatetic being has shifted
from a pilgrim to a tourist.  This shift in subjectivity is not only linked
to a destabilisation of the cultural codes that distinguish between places
of origin and reverence, but to a broader rupture in the sense of belonging
and the perception of destiny within an individual's life narrative. Home
and shrine are no longer defined in terms of fixed location or within
ritually bounded zones. All the coordinates of transition and destination in
a life's passage are now defined as if everything is suspended along an
infinite stage. We seem to be in a situation that says a great deal about
where we have come from, a little about where it is we would like to go, but
demonstrates almost no knowledge of why we are moving in the first place, or
what it is that drives us on and away.

The dynamic of displacement is intrinsic to migration and modernity, however
the links between them have been largely overlooked. Migration was often
interpreted as a transitional phase within modernity. As a consequence, the
earlier sociological models, which shared the founding assumptions of
modernity, have tended to represent migration in terms of trauma and
disruption. The emphasis given to tracking the harsh economic, desperate
political or brutal military forces that push people away from their homes,
has often obscured the less tangible desires and dreams for transformation
which gives migration its inner heading. Since the pioneering work of
sociologists like Stephen Castles and Jean Martin in the 1970s, there has
been an unequivocal demonstration of, both the central role played by
economic and political structures in the regulation of migration, and the
distorted levels of cultural exchange caused by the migrant's socio-economic
inferiority within the host society. While the sociological mainstream
emphasised the levels of stratification and integration, the critical
schools stressed the contradictions and conflicts, but both positions
understood the social as a total system. Migration was thus seen as either a
necessary addition or an unwelcome burden to this system. The impact of
migration was reduced to a temporary feature, rather than as an ongoing
process which constitutes modernity. However, as the post-modern critiques
of the social have attempted to redefine the boundaries and processes which
shape society, there has been a further opportunity to reconceptualise the
relationship between migration and modernity.

By turning my attention to the forms of cultural survival, I have not sought
to ignore the crucial role of bureaucratic and institutional networks which
have influenced the possibility of minority groups gaining an economic and
political grounding. I am keenly aware of the inequalities that cut into the
position of migrants. Nevertheless my overriding aim is a critique of the
kinds of identities and affiliations that emerge in and despite the
polarization and conflict of globalization. There is no desire to join in
with those facile and sponsored choruses which celebrate the vitality of
cultural diversity while detaching it from all socio-economic references,
rather there is an attempt to theorize both the small acts of cultural
defiance and articulate the degrees of residual incommensurability which the
dominant frameworks render inchoate and invisible. As I argue in chapter 7,
the points of difference between competing cultural codes and the concepts
which remain untranslatable matters a great deal, for they reveal not just a
differing set of priorities, but also the seeds of rival worldviews.

The Stranger in Modernity

Of all the classical social theorists who identified the significance of
migration, Georg Simmel was exceptional because he appreciated both the
predicament and the sensibility of the stranger. However, even his account
of the stranger does not provide us with a universal model for representing
all the forms of estrangement generated by global migration. Simmel's
representation of the stranger is limited in two fundamental ways. First,
there is an almost imperceptible elision between the figure of the stranger,
and the process of estrangement as a trope for creative and critical
thinking. This ambiguous relationship between the figure of the stranger and
the trope of estrangement has caused much confusion, especially in the
recent debates on sexual and cultural difference. Second, Simmel's
construction of the stranger is embedded within a series of dichotomies,
us - them, modern - traditional, insider -outsider, and while the stranger
oscillates between these positions, it presupposes that these prior
positions are fixed and counter-posed according to a binary logic. In the
current phases of global migration there is a need for a more complex
framework of differentiation, one that is capable of addressing the shifting
patterns of inclusion and exclusion.

It is now commonplace for our neighbours to be strangers from distant
countries, our security in the workplace to be dependent on the priorities
of trans-national corporations, and our cultural knowledge to be formed
through the interaction of signs taken from a variety of places. Our sense
of identity is neither immune to nor above these transformations, but it is
inextricably linked to them. However, the representation of identity has
often been cast in far more narrow and restrictive terms. In particular, the
identities of peasants, migrants and minorities were confined to traditional
categories, reflecting primordial values and embodying exclusionist
practices. Identity was defined in terms of a unique essence. Difference was
presented in oppositional terms maintaining a convenient boundary between
migrants and settlers. That model of representation and those boundaries are
untenable in contemporary society.

As I argue in chapter 8, there are now a number of contributors to the
debates on identity who demonstrate the need to shift the conceptual
framework in terms of an ongoing process of negotiating differences that
cross and ground our life's narrative, rather than the rigid performance of
a pre-determined script. Identity is not about determining a singular path
that constantly closes down the horizons of becoming by pulling back
everything to a single point of origin. While the role of the past is a
significant force in the shaping of any identity, it doesn't have the
exclusive power to determine all the possibilities for shaping identity in
the present. Today the stereotypical images of the stranger as asylum
seeker, gypsy, refugee often proceed precede the arrival of migrants,
proliferating on the screens of media networks which in turn unsettle
colonial poles of centre and periphery. The identity of the stranger is thus
crucially affected by the media and its use of stereotypes. In this context
the ambivalence that is projected against the stranger can take more extreme

What is also overlooked in many of the recent debates on identity politics
is the relational aspects of identities. While it is necessary to recognise
the specific contexts within which identities are constituted there must
always be a concurrent process of connecting identity to a broader social
consciousness. Edward Said has been particularly critical of the tendency
toward exclusivism in identity politics. He argues that the politics of
ethnic affirmation has been driven by the logic of displacement where one
form of ethnic particularity competes with another for the position of
authority. To counter this ingrown and defensive vision, Said offers a mode
of being that he calls 'worldliness', which is a form of identity that
emerges through the practice of connecting individual meanings of cultural
differences within the "large, many-windowed house of human culture as a

Hybridity has become one of the most useful concepts for representing the
meaning of cultural difference in identity. In the work of Homi Bhabha and
Stuart Hall identity is defined as hybrid, not only to suggest that origins,
influences and interests are multiple, complex and contradictory, but also
to stress that our sense of self in this world is always incomplete.
Self-image is formed in, not prior to, the process of interaction with
others. This interpretation of identity as hybrid is a direct challenge to
earlier quasi-scientific claims that hybrids were sterile, physically weak,
mentally inferior and morally confused. The colonizing fantasies of the
'master race' as culturally and eugenically superior were underscored by a
stigma that was projected on hybrids. This stigma has now been converted
into a positive gain. In many of the recent applications of this concept,
the figure of the hybrid is extended to serve as a 'bridging person', one
that is both the benefactor of a cultural surplus, and the embodiment of a
new synthesis. However, this benign view of hybridity has a number of
limitations. By stressing the hybrid's positive achievement of
reconciliation between cultural differences it blurs the very relational
process that hybridity ought to highlight. In the rush to find an
alternative to aggressive and chauvinistic forms of identity, the concept of
hybridity has frequently been promoted to the position of a new form of
global identity. This celebration of identity as hybridity has failed to pay
sufficient attention to the deeper logic of accumulation and consumption
that frames modern identity. In a society where the principle that dominates
social relations is not reciprocity but consumption, hybridity is often
reduced to the occasional experience of exotic commodities which can be
repackaged to sustain the insatiable trade in new forms of cultural
identity. Hybridity, as a metaphor for identity formation, can only function
critically when the dual forces of movement and bridging, displacement and
connection are seen as operating together. It is only when there is a
consciousness of this oscillation between different positions and
perspectives, that hybridity can offer a new understanding of identity.

Communities of Difference

In the final chapter of this book I conclude that the significance of
migration for modern society will not be grasped if its meaning is confined
to conventional definitions of physical movement and social settlement. As a
consequence of the restless dynamism in modern society, the boundaries of
community, as well as the more general sense of belonging, have changed
radically. We need to understand the flows of cultural change from at least
two perspectives: the movement of people, and the circulation of symbols.
However, as noted earlier the introduction of foreign symbols and different
cultural practices is no longer dependent on the physical presence of
strangers. New channels of communication travel across established borders,
meaning that cultural displacement can occur without the movement of people.

This transformation in the cultural politics of belonging is clearly linked
to the expansion of media technologies. Benedict Anderson astutely tracked
the influence of the invention of the printing press and the mass literary
projects that led to what he called the 'imagined community'.  Once texts
could be reproduced in greater volume and circulate across vast distances
new affiliations between people could be formed. Communities were
established with less regard for geographic proximity and more attention to
a common language and shared ideals. People felt a belonging through a
communion of certain structures of belief, rather than by the obligations
and responsibilities that are drawn from day-to-day and face-to-face

The revolution initiated by 'print capitalism', which altered the sense of
'togetherness' as it magnified the possibilities for disseminating
narratives of 'us' and 'them', has taken a further turn with the ascendancy
of camera and computer based telecommunications. The increased domestic
access to telephones, faxes and electronic mail, the diversity of uses for
televisual screens from pleasure and information, to security and
surveillance has led collectively to a proliferation of images and messages.
These technological advances enabled optimists, like Marshall McLuhan, to
prophecise over the birth of a new communitarianism. However, as McLuhan
also noted, the essential drive of telecommunication is interruptive:
"Nothing can be further from the spirit of the new technology than 'a place
for everything and everything in its place'. You can't go home again."  For
him, this radical transformation of our relationship to space was meant to
mark a liberation from the 'tyranny of distance', and provide the network
for a single and integrated society that would occupy the whole planet.

Such enthusiasm has not been shared by all the commentators on the new
technologies of telecommunication. For Guy Debord, the promise of a global
village was warily perceived as either a mirage or a new form of
totalitarian surveillance. The illusion that home was everywhere in the
spectacle was, for Debord underscored by the haunting feeling of being at
home nowhere. He predicted that the access to the new media technologies
would be highly selective, and their uses reflect the vested interests of
existing holders of power.  Whether or not we agree that the increasing role
of the media has led to political emancipation or cultural enrichment, it is
now beyond doubt that, for those who are 'hooked' into these circuits, there
has been a series of transformations in the modalities of individual
perception and collective memory. Paul Virilio also claimed that, as the
screen dominates the post-industrial interior, the moral density of civic
society is eviscerated.

At the end of the 20th century, urban space loses its geopolitical reality
to the exclusive benefit of systems of instantaneous deportation whose
technological intensity ceaselessly upsets all of our social structures.
These systems include the deportation of attention, of the human
face-to-face and the urban vis-a-vis encounters at the level of human /
machine interaction. In effect, all of this participation in a new 'post
urban' and transnational kind of concentration.

The links between modernity, migration and the media have remained
relatively under theorized. However, Scott McQuire's recent work has
excavated many of the deep philosophical and cultural paths that intersect
at the junction of camera-technology, modernization and displacement.  The
age of the camera not only coincides with modernity but heightens out
attention to the anxieties of the 'homeless subject'.

The Limits of Explanation

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, and even in the early 80s, there were vigorous
debates within sociology over how migration could be explained. It was
presumed that migration doesn't just happen, it has to be caused by
something. There were two prevailing models. First, the voluntarist
perspective which defined the movement in dual terms of an internal push
out - due to the stagnation at home, and an external pull up - from the
promise of greater opportunity elsewhere. Second, the structuralist
political economy perspective, which charted migration according to the
global division of central industrialized capitalist societies in the West
and North, and peripheral peasant based societies in the East and South.
There were inherent limitations to both of these perspectives, with the
former overly stressing the individual's decision as rational calculation,
while the latter resulted in a form of economic determinism that
subordinated race and gender under the heading of class.

These social divisions and their relationship to migration have now been
addressed in a new series of debates on agency. However, despite a period of
intensive theoretical contestation, the debates about the paradigms for
understanding the causes of migration have lulled. Most contemporary
accounts of migration are now either more empirical, or present an eclectic
theoretical model which is composed of both voluntarist and structuralist
concepts. The presentation of a new general theory of migration, or even an
extension to the previous theoretical debates is lacking. This has left a
serious gap in our knowledge of the turbulent dynamics of migration. For by
continuing to explain migration purely in terms of cause and consequence of
other forces, the social scientists have remained dependent on an out-dated
mechanistic universe. Both the conservative-functionalist and the
progressive-Marxist models have tended to explain human movement in terms of
a water-pump system. The energy for movement was confined to the flows that
were generated by the engines of industry and regulated by the valves of
state policies. As industry demanded labour, governments turned valves, and
the flow of migrants either contracted or expanded. This crude model is
unable to accomodate what I call the auto-dynamics and multi-vectorial flows
in this turbulent phase of migration.

The social scientist's version of the water pump model of equilibrium,
assumed that something will emerge only if there is an attending force to
displace something else, or if there was a pre-existing vacuum from which it
could be drawn. Such structuralist models were also transposed onto the
subjectivities or the life narratives of migrants. To construct the
stereotype of the 'migrant as victim' a number of social forces were given
priority over the agency of the individual. Translated into cultural
politics this means that the identity of the migrant was extracted from the
fixed repertoire of stereotypes associated with the place of origin, that
the space for the representation of different perspectives in modernity was
finite, that the resources for mutual understanding amongst strangers was
limited, and that the success of one interest was always at the expense of
another. Narratives of migration in the social sciences have thus repeated
the territorial competitiveness and binary oppositions that they were meant
to critique. One of the crucial aims of this book is to present alternative
models for conceptualising cultural exchange.

The task of rethinking the social with cultural difference as a constitutive
feature is only just beginning. This task will need to proceed on at least
two levels, one which can attend to the changes in the configuration between
the local and the global, and the other which develops a broader conceptual
framework for representing the processes of cultural transformation. Given
the enormity of this task, it might be worthwhile by beginning to note the
steps that have already been taken. Many scholars have commented on the
problems associated with administering the social policy of multiculturalism
on a national basis. There is also growing debate about the contradiction in
the political trajectories and the poverty of the philosophical framework
for representing cultural difference. However, while the issues emerging
from cultural difference may seem complex and intractable within the context
of the nation state, how much more demanding do they become when viewed from
a global perspective? What framework will structure the negotiation of
cultural differences in the age of globalization? Under whose jurisdiction
and with which tribunals will the rights of minorities be represented? The
aim of this book is not so much to complete this task of re-thinking
cultural identity in the context of global migration, but to lay down a
number tracks that will assist in the understanding of the changes that are
taking place all around us.

The urgency of such a task is particularly evident in multicultural nation
states like the United States and Australia. Three decades after the civil
rights movement political leaders are now being compelled to confront the
entrenched divisions and unacknowledged crimes perpetrated along the lines
of cultural difference. While the indigenous peoples of Australia struggle
with the legacy of genocide, one of the highest infant mortality rates in
the world, countless unexplained deaths of young men while held in custody,
the pursuit of land rights through the courts and compensation for the
stolen generation of children which were taken away from their family in
order to be assimilated into white society, the Prime Minister John Howard
vacillated over his own moral duties. He responded to these burning claims
by insisting that the current regime should not bear the burden of the past.
Meanwhile he pursues a path of consolidating the interests of mining
companies and pastoral leaseholders at the expense of the indigenous people.
Across the Pacific Ocean, the University regent of California Ward Connely,
who is black, and must surely be aware of the bitter statistic that for
every black male that completes a university degree one hundred are sent to
prison, dismissed President Bill Clinton's attempt to initiate a "great and
unprecedented conversation about race", because he claimed that "where the
American people want to go is beyond this whole issue of race."

Within what sort of framework is it possible to get beyond race and re-think
the issues of cultural difference? There is little evidence of success so
far. The practices of exposing institutionalised racism are in themselves
but the first steps towards dismantling the structures and categories of
domination. New techniques and strategies are necessary for critiquing the
hierarchies of power and justice. The liberal principles of equal
opportunity  seem inadequate to the task of achieving social equality and
often conflict with their intrinsic claims of cultural neutrality. Should
there be one form of identity which is central and dominates others? Does a
minority position threaten the cohesion of the social? These questions have
intensified as the multicultural debates begin to consider who defines the
parameters of the social, the limits of tolerance, and what sort of
identities are considered compatible with the codes of modern society.

While not a new phenomenon, migration has never been as multi-directional,
and the experience of displacement has never been as multi-dimensional as it
is today. When the performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena, and founding
member of the Border Arts Workshop, asked himself the question: 'Who am I?',
his response - an itinerary of multiple and mixed places of origin - was not
presented as a sign of an exotic biography, but as a metaphor for the
contradictions and complexities of belonging.

I wake up as a Mexican in US territory. With my Mexican psyche, my Mexican
heart and my Mexican body, I have to make intelligible art for American
audiences that know very little about my culture. This is my daily dilemma.
I have to force myself to cross a border, and there is very little
reciprocity from the people on the other side.
I physically live between two cultures and two epochs. I have a little house
in Mexico City, and one in New York, separated from each other by a thousand
light-years in terms of culture.
I also spend time in California. As a result, I am a Mexican part of the
year, a Chicano the other part. I cross the border by foot, by car and by
When I am on the Mexican side, I have strong artistic connections to Latin
American urban pop culture and ritual traditions that are centuries old.
When I am on the US side, I have access to high-technology and specialized
information. When I cross back to Mexico, I get immersed in a rich
counter-culture: the post-earthquake movement of opposition. When I return
to the US, I am part of the inter and cross-cultural thinking  emerging from
the interstices of the US's ethnic milieus.
My journey not only goes from South to North, but from the past to the
future, from Spanish to English and from one side of myself to another.

Cultural identity is increasingly in excess, or excluded from the
traditional political categories of exclusive membership to a singular
nation-state. But then, how to represent an identity that does not
correspond to some form of national origin? The difficulty of grasping this
complexity is linked to a series of fundamental questions which theorists
are now confronting simultaneously: 'what is the future of the nation
state?', 'what are the boundaries of society?', 'how do cultures survive?',
and 'how do we understand agency?'.

We now need new models not only because the density, velocity and
multi-directionality of current migration flows have baffled analysts and
discredited earlier theories, but because they also need to be related to
the economic and cultural phases of globalization. The decentering and
dematerialization of economic activity has summoned the spectre of
'placeless capital' and the 'homeless subject'. Vital decisions that affect
local economies are increasingly made elsewhere. We have entered an era
which Lash and Urry call the 'end of organised capital'.  This turbulent
state should not be confused with an evocation of so called 'postmodern
indeterminacy'. It simply means that the nodal points of economic and social
activity are neither integrated within the spatial coordinates nor
synchronised according to the temporal rhythms of the nation state. The neat
binarisms and linear oppositions of the colonialist and nationalist
expansions are no longer the appropriate grids within which the contemporary
flows can be plotted and mapped. The flows that these new formations have
stimulated need to be mapped in terms of multi-variate circuits.

In this context, the experience of migration may well be even more
precarious than we have yet been able to imagine. Despite the rhetorical
appeal of multiculturalism and the intellectual popularity of concepts like
diaspora and hybridity, the horizon of the migrant's imaginary is
increasingly filled with experiences of itinerancy, ghettoization and
illegality. Displacement is not only a more common, but also a more complex
experience. Both the normative boundaries, and physical location of members
within communities, are on the move. Following from Derrida it may be
worthwhile for the social sciences not only to map the trajectories and
consequences of human movement, but to ask such fundamental questions as:
"what gives the movement its start?"  A different look at our turbulent
times may also bring into question the available models of explanation, and
expand our understanding of change beyond the mechanistic frameworks of
causation and consequence. In an age of global migration we also need new
social theories of flow and resistance, and cultural theories of difference
and translation. We need a mode of investigation which can track these
dispersed and reflexive practices of empowerment and negotiation. Migrant
forms of belonging are rarely the mere duplication of traditional forms, or
the blind adoption of modern practices. Through their actions and decisions
migrants enter into a constant dialogue between past and present, near and
far, foreign and familiar. A dialogical approach, rather than the
monological and progressivist narratives which dominated the social
sciences, may assist our future understanding of the complex ways migrants
participate in and reshape the social worlds within which they move. Perhaps
it is time for social scientists to face the more complex representation of
reality that an artistic sensibility yields. In the early 1970s, just as the
mass migration schemes in Europe were grinding to a halt, John Berger wrote
these words.

... A man's resolution to emigrate needs to be seen within the context of a
world economic system. Not in order to reinforce a political theory but so
that what actually happens to him can be given its proper value. That
economic system is neo-colonialism. Economic theory can show how this
system, creating under-development, produces the conditions which lead to
emigration: it can also show why the system needs the special labour power
which the migrant workers have to sell. Yet necessarily the language of
economic theory is abstract. And so, if the forces which determine the
migrant's life are to be grasped and realized as part of his personal
destiny, a less abstract formulation is needed. Metaphor is needed. Metaphor
is temporary. It does not replace theory. (41)

Yet his migration is like an event in a dream dreamt by another. As a figure
in a dream dreamt by an unknown sleeper, he appears to act autonomously, at
times unexpectedly; but everything he does - unless he revolts - is
determined by the needs of the dreamer's mind. Abandon the metaphor. The
migrant's intensionality is permeated by historical necessities of which
neither he nor anybody he meets is aware. That is why it is as if his life
were being dreamt by another. (43)

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