Living in ambivalence: Punjabi migrant transationalism in the U.K.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Global Studies


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Description The problematisation of migrant transnationalism, through analysing the Punjab-UK transnational space in its local and diasporic priorities, allowed us to think beyond the discourses of demotic and relentless exchanges and bifocal consciousness. Though the research does not deny the empowering possibilities and outcomes engendered by transnationalism, its attention was more on the unexplored tensions and the disjunctures it entails. Punjab-UK transnational spaces are found to be prevalent with a robust parallel economy of 'illegal but licit' migrations, interspersed with an entrenched 'social imaginary' encouraging emigration regardless of its human and material financial costs. The governmental interventions through criminalising 'illegal' emigrations and policing 'human smuggling' are found to be providing grounds for the proliferation of 'illicit' networks, often buttressed by capacious kinship and pind networks. Punjabi migrant transnationalism, and the networks that sustain it, are also found to be entrenched in patriarchy, and the position of a migrant or transnational citizen engender new masculinities, as seen in the cultural economy of cross-national marriages. The acquiring and managing of material resources across borders unleash further disjunctures and conflicts; the charitable investments by the NRIs are source of tensions and conflicts with local society too, apart from pitting different interests and power groups against each other. While state is found to be an active participant not only in producing 'transnationality' but also making it a sparse and skewed resource, the integration or marginalization of 'freshies' in the diaspora is mediated by their caste, class and gender positions.
Exploitation Route The scholarship on Punjabi migrant transnationalism is largely one-sided with inadequate attention paid to the downsides of diaspora-homeland linkages and our research would hopefully foster more critical engagements towards Punjab's being as influentially transnational. At the larger level, it will problematise the current scholarship on transnational migration and form an insightful addition in the fields of diaspora studies, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, cultural studies and international relations. The output of this research would positively inform the administrative society both in India/Punjab and UK on questions of criminalisation of migration, new regimes of citizenship, mobilization of transnational resources for national development and provision of various services to migrants and transnational citizens. It is also gratifying that the work seemingly reinforced the growing interest in India on migration and diaspora studies / mobility studies, as reflected in the openness of publishers and willingness of universities and research institutions to start migration/diaspora/mobility related research and teaching programmes.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Description The societal and economic impacts of the research pertains to the issues of criminalization of 'illegal' migration and perpetuation of informal networks irrespective of the social licitness it carry and a receptive grey market at the destination; uncertainties of transnational marriages and the new grounds of patriarchy it engenders; the prestige and trouble of managing transnational properties and homeland ties and philanthropy/development; and the governmental efforts to strengthen and formalise transnational exchanges and the measured reaction of the diaspora to it. These issues call considered interventions from the political and civil societies. The policy informing meetings at Chandigarh, Trivandrum and Brussels, alongside the outcomes of the project will hope to have impacts on issues like 'illegal' migrations, remittance and transnational philanthropy, transnational marriage and properties and statist attempts to formalise transnational spaces. The project also generated social interest among the transnational Punjabi community. While many from ordinary walk of life attended many presentations, particularly those in Edinburgh and Waterloo, the relatives of connections established in Punjab virtually facilitated the field research in Birmingham, Leicester and London. The active interest of such British Punjabis not only made the field work hassle free but also allowed checking whether our interpretations based on data collected from Punjab are in place
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Policy & public services