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El-Ghorba: A Media Ethnography of Transnationalism among Arab Immigrant Families in Canada
Unformatted Document Text:  Originating in early accounts of immigration and recently used to describe economic networks and global commerce, transnationalism is a common term used in international affairs discourse. Used often to refer to multinational enterprises, global media, “global culture” and such border-defying institutions, the word has its origins in the canon of immigration studies. Basch et al (1994) define the word transnationalism as the “processes by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement.” They further describe the location of transnationalism as the complex and time-sensitive state of “in-betweenness” which continually challenges cultural, national and spatial identities. By inbetweenness, the authors refer to the discrepant situation these transmigrants are in. Their identities are defined by the nation-state identities of both the sender and recipient countries (Basch, 1994). This process of identity-definition is described by Hannerz (1987) as the “creolization” of the immigrant group. Regardless of the degree of integration and incorporation, these transmigrants continue to lead lives that transcend borders, and often find themselves confronted with and engaged in the nation-building processes of two or more nation-states. Characteristic to the immigration process is the transplantation and relocation of people (“cultural indicators”) from their local and/or original habitation and environmental context to one that is recognizably variable in its definition of identity. The consequent integrative process that immigrants will undergo over a variable period of time is one characterized by the confrontation between the native identity and the culture, which predominates in the “recipient” environment. In the process, the mosaic end product, some argue, is not one or the other, but a novel newborn hybrid (Featherstone, 1995; Barker, 1999). While immigrants in the past were expected, and in some circumstances forced, to relinquish their connection with their homelands due to inability to cross boundaries and surpass community demarcation, today this is no longer the case. With a complex and effective global communication networking, these migrant communities can continue to situate their multiple identities in various geographic and conceptual cultural locales (Buell, 1994). Global communication and transnational migration have juxtaposed distant communities and ecologies, in the process reinforcing diversity and collective intersubjective identities that traverse and interweave through one another. Media acculturation Banton’s (1981) research on ethnic change describes a reaction triggered and instigated by chaos within the cultural system. A disruption of the status quo in any system creates chaos that will catalyze and create change. Hicks (1994), furthers this statement with his (1994) definition of acculturation as the “changes that take place in a culture as a result of contact with another culture.” A catalyst in this circumstance can be considered an agent that precipitates a process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences of the process. In the case of immigration, the catalyst for culture change is not separate from the consequences of the acculturation process, but is integral to their outcome. These observations among immigrant and transnational media audiences recognize a similar process of acculturation. In the case of immigration, acculturation can then be defined as the process by which individuals and collectives “establish a strong need to adopt the way of life of the host culture” (Chen & Starosta, 1998).

Authors: Iskandar Farag, Adel.
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background image
Originating in early accounts of immigration and recently used to describe economic
networks and global commerce, transnationalism is a common term used in international affairs
discourse. Used often to refer to multinational enterprises, global media, “global culture” and
such border-defying institutions, the word has its origins in the canon of immigration studies.
Basch et al (1994) define the word transnationalism as the “processes by which immigrants forge
and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and
settlement.” They further describe the location of transnationalism as the complex and time-
sensitive state of “in-betweenness” which continually challenges cultural, national and spatial
identities. By inbetweenness, the authors refer to the discrepant situation these transmigrants are
in. Their identities are defined by the nation-state identities of both the sender and recipient
countries (Basch, 1994). This process of identity-definition is described by Hannerz (1987) as
the “creolization” of the immigrant group. Regardless of the degree of integration and
incorporation, these transmigrants continue to lead lives that transcend borders, and often find
themselves confronted with and engaged in the nation-building processes of two or more nation-
states.
Characteristic to the immigration process is the transplantation and relocation of people
(“cultural indicators”) from their local and/or original habitation and environmental context to
one that is recognizably variable in its definition of identity. The consequent integrative process
that immigrants will undergo over a variable period of time is one characterized by the
confrontation between the native identity and the culture, which predominates in the “recipient”
environment. In the process, the mosaic end product, some argue, is not one or the other, but a
novel newborn hybrid (Featherstone, 1995; Barker, 1999).
While immigrants in the past were expected, and in some circumstances forced, to
relinquish their connection with their homelands due to inability to cross boundaries and surpass
community demarcation, today this is no longer the case. With a complex and effective global
communication networking, these migrant communities can continue to situate their multiple
identities in various geographic and conceptual cultural locales (Buell, 1994). Global
communication and transnational migration have juxtaposed distant communities and ecologies,
in the process reinforcing diversity and collective intersubjective identities that traverse and
interweave through one another.
Media acculturation
Banton’s (1981) research on ethnic change describes a reaction triggered and instigated
by chaos within the cultural system. A disruption of the status quo in any system creates chaos
that will catalyze and create change. Hicks (1994), furthers this statement with his (1994)
definition of acculturation as the “changes that take place in a culture as a result of contact with
another culture.” A catalyst in this circumstance can be considered an agent that precipitates a
process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences of the
process. In the case of immigration, the catalyst for culture change is not separate from the
consequences of the acculturation process, but is integral to their outcome. These observations
among immigrant and transnational media audiences recognize a similar process of
acculturation. In the case of immigration, acculturation can then be defined as the process by
which individuals and collectives “establish a strong need to adopt the way of life of the host
culture” (Chen & Starosta, 1998).


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