Glocalization effects of immigrants’ activities on the host society: an exploration of a neglected theme

by Ewa Morawska

Working Papers WP 10-01
February 2010
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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International migration seems an ideal field in which to explore the workings of glocalization, understood as the process of simultaneous homogenization and heterogenization of economic, socio-cultural, and political forms (Robertson 1994; Robertson and White 2005), yet curiously, this connection has attracted minimal attention from scholars and exclusively from those not directly affiliated with (im) migration studies (Giulianotti and Robertson 2007, 2004). In this essay, I elaborate the glocalization-( im)migration link, the conceptualization of which by Giulianotti and Robertson (2007) I do not find entirely satisfactory, in order to bring the overspecialized study of (im)migration closer to the ongoing debate in the mainstream social sciences about the global, the glocal, and the local developments in the contemporary world.

The essay consists of three sections. In the first part, I propose a way to position the notions of glocalization and multiscalar spaces of globalization vis-à-vis each other, and I suggest some modifications of the conceptualization of glocalization in relation to (im)migration as formulated by Giulianotti and Robertson. In the remaining two sections, I illustrate my propositions with empirical cases. Although studies of international migration have, by the definition of their subject matter, transgressed national boundaries, these cosmopolitan foundations have not saved the practitioners of this field from a narrow, one-sided perspective in their concerns. The almost exclusive focus of theory and research regarding the effects of the encounters between immigrants and the receiver countries they settle in has been on the modes of adaptation of those newcomers into the host societies and the patterns of accompanying transformation of their home-country identifications, cultural practices, and social and civic commitments. I focus here on a thus far neglected reverse outcome of these encounters, namely, the glocalizing impact of immigrants’ activities on the host society.

The empirical part of the essay includes two sets of analyses: I first comparatively consider the effects on the receiver, American society of turn-of-the-last-century vs. contemporary immigrants, and, next, I examine this impact of differently positioned groups among the latter. The information about these groups and their influence on the receiver-country people and institutions comes from my longitudinal historical-sociological study of past and present immigration and ethnicity in the United States.

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