Critiques and New Directions


The classic theory of push-pull migration has been criticized as being "rationalist" for focusing only on individual choice based on economic rationales (e.g., where the cost of staying at the origin is less than the benefit of migrating). Contemporary scholarship on migration also examines societal opportunity structures and obstacles (a "structuralist" approach), gender differences, and the roles of intermediaries (such as agencies and organizations that help migrants) to the household or family as decision-making units (Brettell and Hollifield 2008). New theories on migration, especially pertaining to space-time relationships, have been developed and/or used by geographers. Of importance to this module is the transnationalism theory developed by anthropologists but used heavily among geographers and other social scientists (Hardwick 2008).


Transnationalism theory posits that contemporary immigrants maintain transnational connections to their countries of origin and beyond. These transnational connections are seen to have multiple dimensions and reflect complex migrant experiences in term of both "from the above" and "from below" perspectives. The former can be seen to apply to the "global trekking" behaviors of transnational corporate executives, and the latter more in terms of transnational activities among regular migrants, which are characterized by cross-border travel, communication, financial, and other linkages as a result of contemporary technological breakthroughs in communication and transportation (Beaverstock 2005; Clark 2005; Kelly and Lusis 2006; Snel et al. 2006; Sassen 2007; Yeoh et al. 2003). Conceptual analyses and empirical studies on the economic aspects of transnationalism have focused on transnational corporations, globetrotting transnational elites, and global family businesses, as well as cross-border economic activities such as remittances. Contemporary globalization trends further enable such transnational connections, as transnational corporations play increasingly important roles in the world economy and migration flows.



Pause and Reflect 4:

Discuss evidence for transnational connections for international migrants in your region or nation.

What examples of cultural, financial, political or other connections illustrate these connections?


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