Transnationalism and Immigration

I have selected two images related to the issue of immigration in the United States. The first image is imbued with idealism. It features a man holding a sign, which says, “The land is for everyone! No borders.”  As I look at this image, I try to imagine a space undistinguished by the boundaries, belonging to everyone. To be honest, it is very hard to do so. If the land “America” belongs to everyone, does it truly belong to anyone? Who gets to make the decisions? Who gets access to resources?” From what I can gather, the man and the crowd waving american flags behind him appear to be advocating for open borders or at the very least increased access to the US.

The other image I have selected is gloomier in nature. The comic shows people in the 21st century protesting against the influx of immigrants. This angry image is contrasted with a benign picture of the 19th century; in this era, the statue of liberty warmly welcomes the world’s poor. The comic suggests that America was more hospitable during that time period, welcoming people with open arms. While I disagree with the assertion made regarding the 19th century, I still believe this comic is useful for understanding transnational processes.

Immigration has always been an issue that elicits nativist sentiments, both in the nineteenth century and now. Even though America often markets itself as a home to the world’s dispossessed, there are always groups who do not approve of immigration. They see these new faces as strangers, unwilling to accept them as true Americans. Lines are drawn, as people define for themselves who does and does not count as an American. To many, America’s inhabitants should be ethnically, religiously, and linguistically homogenous. To them, America should fit the standard definition for a nation and should not act as a transnational space engaging many different groups.

Different groups have varying visions on what America should be, and this difference creates profound ruptures and a conflicted American identity.

By Kailyn Amory

One thought on “Transnationalism and Immigration”

  1. I think it is also interesting how often a idealistic version of 19th century America’s attitude towards immigrants is used in rhetoric about immigration reform. While a great deal of people did enter the US in that period, most of those groups faced racism and discrimination, just as immigrants do now.

    I think that this can be tied to Appadurai’s idea of the mediascape, even if Appadurai does not use it precisely in that context. Appadurai’s essay complicates the relationship between time and space, by commenting, for instance, that the past is like another country. In this sense, we could argue that, just as the mediascape can create imaginary worlds in relation to other nations or cultures, it can also create imaginary worlds in relation to the past. -Tanya


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