Transnational Lives: Economies, Bureaucracies, and Desires (Workshop, 11-12 January 2018)

TRANSWEL workshop participants group photo
Workshop participants (Photo: Martin Tegnander/PRIO)


This exploratory workshop examined the significance and implications of leading life in two (or more) countries. The workshop title reflects the particular perspectives we encouraged. ‘Transnational lives’ suggests analyses that go beyond particular transnational practices—such as remittance-sending or expatriate voting—yet remained grounded in lived experience. The words ‘economies, bureaucracies, and desires’ allude to the diversity of encounters, frictions and forces that may shape transnational lives.

The workshop aimed to make a concerted effort for analytical progress. Twenty-five years after the transnational turn in migration studies was introduced, what are the most promising lines of inquiry within a transnational perspective? How should developments in related fields inform our approach to transnationalism? What are the implications of changes in technology, policies, and societies for transnational perspectives on migration?

In the call for papers we specifically encouraged empirically grounded papers that make theoretical advances in the research agenda on transnationalism, related to the themes outlined in the workshop title. Transnational perspectives remain associated with international migration from lower-income to higher-income countries. We encouraged contributions that widen this scope, for instance through studies of transnational living among élites in the Global South, among Europeans or North Americans without an immigrant background, or between countries in the Global South. Transnational lives need not be studied from the perspective of the transnational subjects. The workshop included contributions that focused on people or institutions that interact with those who lead transnational lives. 

The workshop was organized in conjunction with the project Transnational Lives in the Welfare State (TRANSWEL), which is funded by the Research Council of Norway and carried out by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and the University of Oslo.

Selected papers

On the basis of an open call for abstracts, the following papers were selected:

New economics of transnational living
Marta Bivand Erdal (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)

Diversity of transnationality: Reflecting differences in cross-border orientations, relationships and practices among international migrantsEveline Reisenauer (University of Hildesheim, Germany)

The parameters of transnational living
Jørgen Carling (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)

Fluid social protection assemblages throughout the life course: the case of Polish and British migrants in a changing European context
Marie Godin (University of Oxford, United Kingdom) and Justyna Bell (Norwegian Social Research, Norway)

The in-betweens: Temporalities of separation in transnational families
Olga Cojocaru (University of Warsaw, Poland)

Perceptions of welfare across life cycles: Privileged migrants in Turkey
Ayşen Üstübici (Koc University, Turkey) and Ezgi İrgil (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

Moving beyond the bi-national sedentarism of transnational literature? Illuminating instances of en route transnational phenomena in the lives of refugees on the move
George Mavrommatis (Harokopio University, Greece)

Transnational lives en route: African trajectories of displacement and emplacement across Latin America
Nanneke Winters (J. Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, and University of Antwerp, Belgium) and Heike Drotbohm (J. Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany)

Permanent migrants and temporary citizens: Multi-national Chinese mobilities in the Americas
Carol Chan (Universidad de Alberto Hurtado, Chile)

Meatpacking ministers and transnational class disorders: the empirical paradoxes and theoretical implications of simultaneous and contradictory socio-economic mobilities and of the production of class bi-polarity within the Liberian transnational field
Stephen Lubkemann (George Washington University, United States)

Gendering transnational migrations. Late-life Western migrants in Thailand
Sarah Scuzzarello (University of Sussex, United Kingdom)

Choosing a ‘transnational life’ as a strategy for wellbeing and a better life?: Aspirations, experiences and life course transformations of Thai-Westerner partnerships
Paul Statham (University of Sussex, United Kingdom)

‘How could I have been so blind?’ Narratives of love and money in transnational relationships
Iris Sportel (Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands)

Categorizing transnationally mobile people: Institutional negotiations beyond ‘migranticization’
Cathrine Talleraas (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)

Medical travel/tourism and the city
Meghann Ormond (Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands) and Heidi Kaspar (Kalaidos University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland)

Transnational lives within a changing socio-political-legislative environment on (im)migration: challenges, negotiations and opportunities
Gayle Munro (The Salvation Army, United Kingdom)

National policies, transnational workers: bureaucratic encounters of Eastern Neighbourhood migrants in Bulgaria and Poland
Zvezda Vankova (Maastricht University, Netherlands)

Transnational bureaucratic encounters
Erik Snel (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands) and Godfried Engbersen (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands)

Transnational traders and bureaucracy in Burkina Faso: towards a new political management of extraversion
Guive Khan-Mohammad (University of Geneva, Switzerland)

Imagining Refugia: thinking outside the current international migration regime
Nicholas Van Hear (University of Oxford, United Kingdom)

Translocal belongings: the role of faith and religion negotiating refugee integration in South America
Marcia Vera Espinoza (University of Sheffield, United Kingdom)

Transnational habitus and sociability in the city: Zimbabwean migrants’ experiences in Johannesburg
Khangelani Moyo (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)


Abstracts of all the papers are available for download. Please contact the authors individually if there are papers you are particularly interested in.

Organizing committee

Grete Brochmann, University of Oslo
Jørgen Carling, Peace Research Institute Oslo*
Godfried Engbersen, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Marta Bivand Erdal, Peace Research Institute Oslo
Erik Snel, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Cathrine Talleraas, Peace Research Institute Oslo

*) Contact person for enquiries.

See also the video version of the call for papers.