Partly idealistic, partly optimistic and partly naïve, we, The Doublethink Project, decided to work abstractly with ideas and notions of transnationalism for our second conceptual research undertaking. Essentially denoting the act of crossing and extending borders, transnationalism is about possibilities and limitations of traveling, moving and acting in a global society. We have tried to challenge these borders, the restrictions they symbolise and the significance (or lack of) they have in an increasingly globalised world.
Before venturing into a more descriptive explanation of our findings and perceptions of this broad topic, it is important to state that we do not see transnationalism as a purely socio-political movement, a popular theoretic explanation of interconnectivity or necessarily what could be argued to be globalisation’s alter ego. In many ways, we actually don’t really see transnationalism as anything but the world and its innate possibility and ability to act and progress. Transnationalism is simply thus just a term set up to describe this instinctive capacity to travel – both locally and globally.
As our projects hopefully will inform and reveal, we have tried to depict transnationalism through an approach embracing a kind of playful understanding of borders and not of fear. It’s about national history and the modern challenges thereof. It is, as the word implies, about cultures beyond place and vice versa.
When The Doublethink Project launched the Public Service projects in 2010, a sense of fluidity – both in project topics and investigations processes – was a defining character of our work. Again, this time with Transnationalism, we have worked with the intersection of perceptions and practices of a very open-ended theme often used in very contrasting contexts. A theme ready to be investigated, though never concluded. By challenging the idea of borders, mixing notions of culture and trying to re-write national history, we have tried to define our research-outcome on transnationalism as fluid as the term itself. One example is Thao, the character in the video ‘As We Put Our Country At Risk’. He is, in essence, the manifestation of our topic’s atypical nature. Or take our border ball-game projects. Here, the border is merely a line on a map, separated by history but also joint by it. This is again an example of the flexibility and changeability of what transnationalism is essentially about.
The nature of transnationalism and transnationality also includes what has come to be called multiculturalism. Naturally, the mix of people, defying colour, belief, culture and class create such kind of an environment. Multiculturalism as a political project, however, has been declared dead in many places. Other places it has never been welcomed. Multiculturalism has thus become a problematic and politicised concept and not an inherent part of globalisation’s effect on a more closely connected world society based on mutual respect, understanding and acceptance. The anthropologist Abu-Lughod challenged some of the same notions of culture itself as she argued that culture is operating within a discourse where it has come to “enforce separations that inevitably carry a sense of hierarchy” (1991).
Such sense of hierarchy, she argues, basically means that the concept of culture is being contaminated by the politicised world.
By not accepting each other, essentially on basis of a cultural hierarchy, transnationalism and multiculturalism has been politicised to the extend where culture itself is not just hierarchical, but also xenophobic. In France they recently banned the burqas and kicked out all the so-called romas. In Denmark it was suggested to ban satellite television transmitting from the Middle East. In Australia government officials talk about ‘black arses’ and ‘mail-order brides’.
To a certain extend, Lug-hod’s argument clashes head-on with Huntington’s (in)famous essay called ‘The Clash of Civilisations”, in which he argues that ‘Western’ ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state often have little resonance in Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or any ‘other’ cultures. In other words, there is a hierarchical separation between ‘us’ and ‘them’ based on our, apparently, common Western culture and their butchery and primitive lifestyles.
To us, however, the only real western thing is the very categorization of a ‘West’. In other words, the very snobbish naivety that creates such an illusion. Hopefully many of our projects will enforce this view.
Today transnationalism, multiculturalism and globalization have, on basis of a cultural hierarchy not accepting the differences, become problems instead of opportunities. It seems the only thing we are laissez-faire about today is the economy. Instead of appreciating the new possibilities of eliminating these hierarchies, embracing the creativity people from diverse backgrounds bring together and facilitate, learn from each other’s mistakes and success’, these terms have come to mean failure and danger. Just like a dud on New Years eve, though this one was never even lit.
What is your role in a transnational environment? What possibilities does such a setting enable? Try to think of the real differences that separate people apart and try to think what actually connects us. Try to think.