July 21, 2019 | 83° F

JAWED: Significance of national borders has been decreasing

Opinions Column: If Not Our Own, Then Someone's


With the multi-directional flow of immigration all over the world, economic, political and socio-cultural transnationalism is diminishing the effect of border-bound national identity. The experiences of 258 million people and those who directly/indirectly interact with these people are based on hybrid identities due to transnationalism.

Encyclopedia Britannica develops the idea: "transnationalism suggests a weakening of the control a nation-state has over its borders, inhabitants and territory. Increased immigration to developed countries in response to global economic development has resulted in multicultural societies where immigrants are more likely to maintain contact with their culture of origin and less likely to assimilate."

Whereas the transnational exchange can be seen as immigrants bringing various cultures to America, on the political side of the spectrum, the U.S. politics today are no longer a local story. 

Lebanese journalist Nadim Ladki's description of Lebanon's position during the 2016 presidential election exemplified how transnational politics impact the U.S. as a nation.  "Although Lebanon is a tiny country, it sits at the heart of the fault line in the Middle East," he said. "With that in mind, Lebanese generally, like many Arabs, will be looking at the policies of the candidates as they relate to three key issues: Daesh, the regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

The Lebanese-American and Arab-American population in the U.S. eligible to vote, who are politically aware of the candidates and still connected with their country of origin or association, were influenced by international events when they used their political voice in America. Whereas this group of people we are considering amounts to a very small percentage of 2016 Presidential Election voters, there are several other factors and voters to consider. For example, the non-Lebanese/Arabs whose votes were influenced by friends and relatives based on these international issues, the influence of social media in bringing forth these international issues, the million other immigrants who voted while taking into consideration something having to do with their home countries and the people that those in question influenced need to be considered. The numbers add up, and at least some degree of transnational influence can be traced in most people's votes.

On the other side of the story, it is because American policy will impact Lebanon and Arab countries that these people are concerned in the first place. The influence is multidirectional and multidimensional.

National borders still hold and probably will continue to hold for a while. But, the significance of the "border" is diminished by the free-flowing exchange of influence. Physical borders do not mean as much as they did when social media and social remittances were non-existent.

Rather than classifying this as good or bad, transnationalism should be considered a changing reality of the world we presently live in. The cross-cultural influence can be attributed to modern technology, the ability to communicate experiences, the institutionalization of globalization (United Nations, World Trade Organization), international crises, cold-war type tensions between various countries and the hybrid identity that forms as result of how these lines meet.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNESCO) publication "The International Migration Report 2017 (Highlights)," "3.4 percent of the world’s inhabitants today are international migrants. This reflects a modest increase from a value of 2.8 percent in 2000." The present general upward trend in migration is a predictor of an increase in transnationalism.

UNESCO highlights the controversy that, "transnational communities represent a powerful challenge to the traditional ideas of nation-state belonging." But, in today's drastically evolving political, social, cultural and economic environment, it might be time to adjust the structure of "nation states" developed in 1648 in the Peace of Westphalia.

Malaika Jawed is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. Her  column, "If Not Our Own, Then Someone's," runs on alternate Fridays. 


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Malaika Jawed

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