On Friendship and Strangeness: The Everyday Encounters and Social Ties of Transnational Professionals
Keele University, United Kingdom
This paper considers how transnational professionals cope with the condition of being or becoming a stranger when they arrive in a new workplace or country. In the Globalization of Strangeness, Rumford (2013) argues that our understanding of the figure of the stranger and strangeness requires an ‘overhaul’ in light of processes of globalization. People become estranged from those who would conventionally be their neighbours, as a result of globalizing processes; conversely, befriending strangers can be routinized through mobility. Questions about how mobility affects friendships, relationships and families, as well as the enduring qualities that constitute character, have been raised by sociologists and other scholars of globalization. Yet social ties and strangeness tend to be separated – analytically and empirically – in sociological research. This paper attempts to draw them together through its empirical focus on in-depth interviews with corporate executives and UN-professionals who routinely cross borders for their jobs. In a practical sense, one needs to ‘travel light’ to be mobile. Arguably, under the project-oriented regime of new capitalism, time-delimited goals and flexible networks are valued over and above long-term endeavours and enduring connections. Whether making and maintaining friends provides a way of insulating transnationals from the disorienting (and short-term) consequences of mobility is a critical question here. Transnational actors’ strategies for orienting oneself to unfamiliar settings are analysed in tandem with their social ties within and across borders.
Negotiating Home Culture: The Case Of Taiwan
National Chengchi University, Taiwan
This study examines how highly skilled emigrants negotiate the diasporic talent engagement policy discourses of their origin country. Many governments around the globe have sought to engage their diasporas as part of their development strategy in the global competition for talent. Current studies have identified various types of diasporic talent engagement policies. This includes the promotion of cross-border cultural bonding, the collection of diasporic information, and economic incentives, such as tax deduction. However, it is relatively less discussed regarding how diasporic individuals receive and negotiate these government practices of their countries of origin. This study is based on semi-structured interviews with Taiwan’s diasporic talent in the technology sector. It explores how the Taiwanese government engages its highly skilled emigrants in the technology sector and how these emigrants negotiate these discourses. The findings suggest that the “ethics of diasporic talent” forms a central part of the policy discourses that seek to encourage highly skilled emigrants to relocate to their origin country. On the one hand, diasporic talent engagement policy discourses and practices nationalistically highlight the responsibility of diasporic talent to contribute to the economic triumphalism of the home country. On the other, filial piety and familialism is envisioned in these discourses and practices as a core ethic of young working emigrants. These emotion-ridden policy imageries are often challenged by the emigrants with a neoliberal rationality, calculating personal economic gains rather than emotional experiences. Some emigrants also challenge the imagined geographical boundaries of patriotism.
Media-Related Practices And Civic Engagement Of A Transnational Audience During A Clash Of Geopolitical Interests
University of Tartu, Estonia
This contribution asks: what is the long-term impact of highly mediated geopolitical confrontation and misinformation operations on the media-related practices and civic identity of a transnational audience?
The term transnational is understood as a set of individual practices in maintaining parallel social relationships with their societies of origin and of settlement (Basch et al 1994). Researchers have reported that migrants who are well integrated into the receiving society are the most transnational (Guarnizo et al 2003, Cela et al 2013). Transnational populations have diverging ‘habitats of meaning’ (Vertovec 2004, Hannerz 1996) accumulated in their multi-local life-worlds, which affect their social agency. Authors generally agree that transnational structures are actually liberating for the individual, as they provide a cultural basis for resistance (Levitt 2010, Lacroix 2014). We assume that, in the context of geopolitical confrontation, the transnational ‘habitats of meaning’, i.e. histories of local belonging, cultural geographies are in turbulence and therefore offer less support for individual agency.
The empirical research was conducted among the Russian-speaking populations of Estonia and Latvia, who developed transnational media use practices during post-Soviet nation-building in the Baltic states. Their media menu combines Russian, local and occasionally Western sources, which is in sharp contrast to ethnic Estonians' and Latvians' local media menus and this has raised public concern about the impact of Russian propaganda.
By using both quantitative research and a qualitative study, the authors will provide a typology of the media use strategies of the Estonian and Latvian Russian audiences and explain how these strategies interact with transnationalism and social agency.
National and Regional Symbolic Boundaries among European Elites: A Qualitative Interview Study of Higher Officials of the European Commission
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
On the one hand, globalization and European integration processes have led to the emergence of transnational elite groups, such as professionals, experts and managers working in international organizations or multinational corporations. Many theories predict that, for them, the nation state as a frame of reference will increasingly lose importance. On the other hand, the countries and regions these elites come from continue to be different and unequal along a number of dimensions, for example, in terms of their culture, language, levels of socio-economic development, and political influence. In this contribution, I ask whether these factors are attributed to the individual level and converted into symbolic boundaries among European elites, thereby potentially contributing to the reproduction of material and symbolic inequalities along national and regional lines.
To tackle this question, I have conducted qualitative interviews with 44 officials of the European Commission. The Commission unites officials from 28 (soon 27) different EU member states, and thus allows analyzing how Europeans from all countries and regions of the EU perceive and relate to each other. Furthermore, as a supranational organization, it is a “least-likely case” for the occurrence of national and regional symbolic boundary making, thus providing a conservative estimate of this phenomenon.
In this contribution, I argue that, while “nationality” and “regional origin” do not constitute primary and explicit markers of symbolic boundaries among Commission officials, issues of “organizational culture”, “working language”, “professional values”, and “influence and career chances”, which are indirectly connected to their respective national and regional backgrounds, do continue to play a role for boundary-making among them.