Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging
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Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging

Annie Phizacklea, Dr Sallie Westwood, Sallie Westwood

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Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging

Annie Phizacklea, Dr Sallie Westwood, Sallie Westwood

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About This Book

In this book, two leading authorities on migration and nationhood attempt to bridge the gap between experience and analysis, looking at:
* the disorientating effects of space and time which migration creates
* how migration affects our understanding of national affiliations and the nation state
* the impact of cross national economic relations on everyday life.
The authors examine the migration of both rich and poor, crossing borders and living increasingly diasporic lives, and show how even as people move across borders, they still seek to be at home in the world through the creation of a "politics of belonging".

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Part I

Chapter 1

Sallie Westwood
The reality is quite plain: the 'end of the era of nationalism', so long prophesied, is not remotely in sight. Indeed, nation-ness is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.
(Anderson, 1991: 3)


As Anderson suggests the saliency of nation-ness is not diminished and yet the understandings of nations in a globalised world have shifted. There is, indeed, a rupture in the ways in which we seek to analyse and conceptualise nations and this chapter examines the move away from a binary understanding of nations and globalisation to one in which the complexity of these two processes is foregrounded. In part, this enters a much older debate between those like Hobsbawm (1990) who suggested the days of nation-building belonged to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and those like Anthony Smith (1991) who is much more militant about the longevity of nations. In the British case, following devolution, there has been an outpouring of commentary on what Nairn initially called 'the break-up of Britain' and in his more recent book calls 'after Britain'. More dramatically, Andrew Marr entitles his book The Day Britain Died. For both old Britain is disassembled. Nairn (2000) insists that Scottish independence is close at hand while Marr (2000) suggests a new federalism, a reassembled nation, that will constitute Britain for the twenty-first century. These books, with their British focus, represent one part of an ongoing debate about the political ruptures that constitute the new Europe. The changes within nation-states in which the unifying national story has been disrupted are familiar throughout the world and demonstrate the importance of understanding that, while the forces of globalisation are powerful in reorganising national imaginaries, dissent and disruption from within the boundaries of nation-states are also part of the narrative. While the processes of decentring are all too evident in Britain, on another continent the externalities of the dollar economy have simultaneously further integrated the small nation-state of Ecuador while opening up a space for the politics of difference to challenge the hegemony of the national story. This challenge calls up a transnational politics specifically invoking the global fortunes of the indigenous peoples and practically forging political ties between indigenous groups and peoples in Ecuador and Bolivia. This chapter examines these processes as a way of undermining the binaries in which changing nation-states are too often understood, for example nation/globalisation and territory/territorialisations, the space of nations and the ways in which place and landscape are invoked in relation to a sense of belonging.
As the twentieth century disappeared one of the smallest nations, Ecuador, burst into the headlines when a coup overthrew the government and ousted the president, Jamil Mahuad, on 22 January. But this was no ordinary coup. It was the product of an alliance between the military and the indigenous organisation CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) which had orchestrated street demonstrations and protests. The third player in this scenario was the US and the dollar economy which had arrived in Ecuador two weeks previously, wiping out savings and increasing the immiseration of an already impoverished population. The US brokered a return to civilian rule and the installation of a new president, Gustavo Noboa, the fourth president in two years, who immediately endorsed the move from the national currency, the sucre, to the dollar. The leader of the indigenous organisation, Antonio Vargas, has suggested that the new president has six months in which to address the problems of the nation (Guardian, 27 January 2000). This scenario, with the US directly involved in the affairs of Latin American nation-states, has a long history but it should not be read simply as a rerun of earlier decades when the US tried by every means to exercise military and political hegemony in Latin America. This is a moment in which the economic, political and cultural facets of globalisation are intertwined in novel ways. One of those ways is the growing power of the indigenous organisation, CONAIE, now a transnational organisation complete with website and an agenda which has brought an alliance with the military in Ecuador. This is part of a history of organisation by CONAIE in relation to the state in Ecuador in which the politics of difference has been foregrounded.
In 1996 Luis Macas, then president of CONAIE, was elected to the National Congress as a deputy and he suggested that this was a break with past politics and that it brought a new era of popular democracy in which the grassroots would now be represented in government. It was an important victory and brought social movement politics into the constitutional frame but it was not long before the social movements were back on the streets.
There were street demonstrations in February 1997 in which one man, a student, was killed, a general strike, claims and counter-claims to the presidency and a watchful military. Ecuadoreans in the capital especially were brought onto the streets by the depth of popular feeling in relation to the self-styled president 'el loco', Abdalá Bucaram, and his neo-liberal economic policies. But, more than the substantive issues, the size of public demonstrations was a visual reminder of the strength of democratic culture in Ecuador and the willingness of citizens to take to the streets and protest. Equally, the tear gas and watercannon showed the power of the state and the availability of forces against popular protest. At one point Ecuador had three presidents — Bucaram who refused to go despite the congress passing a motion that due to mental instability he was unfit to be president, the deputy, Rosalia Arteaga, who did succeed Bucaram briefly, and the recent president Fabian Alarcón, supported by the military and the final outcome of the in-fighting. Fabian Alarcón was replaced electorally by Dr Mahuad, previously mayor of Quito, the capital city, in August 1998. In April 1997 the military filed a case for treason against Bucaram which he countered from exile in Venezuela, blaming the military for his summary dismissal. Overall, the ongoing and deepening crises in Ecuador demonstrate both the success of the national project and the contradictory play of decentring forces which destabilise the national project.
The national project in Ecuador has a long history but in the Bucaram era it was basically hijacked by the latest version of a parody of the 'populist despot' in the shape of the all-singing Bucaram, otherwise known as 'el loco', who apparently delights in the name. He is a 'gesture politician' who previously fled Ecuador following corruption charges but who has powerful and wealthy friends in Guayaquil (the booming coastal city) and who mounted a populist media campaign in order to secure the presidency. As he has now been made aware both el pueblo and the media are uncertain friends. Politically Bucaram follows in the wake of other 'colourful' figures in Ecuador's history — el Bombito, for example, General Lara who was also fond of staging media events for his own self-aggrandisement. Bucaram is not entirely new in this and in many other ways as well. In terms of policy, if the incoherent twists and turns of his proclamations can be dignified in this way, his political rhetoric reinforces the earlier and current version of economic liberalisation which marks nation-states throughout Latin America and countries across the world. The two pillars of this are privatisation and structural adjustment which we know from the many studies of both make some folk rich and a lot of people a lot poorer. The recent events in the aftermath of 'dollarisation' demonstrate the ineffectiveness of these policies.


In part, Ecuador, a specific nation-formation, shares with many others around the world a series of processes which both centre and decentre the nation simultaneously and it is these processes that are discussed in this chapter. It is especially interesting, both in relation to Latin America more generally and in relation to Ecuador, because Ecuador is a small country overshadowed, in many respects, by her larger neighbours, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela — all also in the news for the complex economic and political processes that mark the current conjuncture. Ecuador is a nation-state of some ten million people (1991 census) with both defined and contested borders, the latter crucial to the nation-building project in the country.
From its split with Grand Colombia in 1830 to the present day Ecuador has been engaged on a nation-building project that is both successful and contested. Since its inception there has been a major contestation between the three distinct regions, the Costa, the South and the highlands, which continues today and is exacerbated by the counter processes of globalisation. The coming together of these three regions into a state taking its name from the Equatorial line brought together a sense of territory with the development of the state and conceptions of Ecuadorean nation-ness from the late nineteenth century (Quintero-Lopez, 1987; Clark, 1994). These official forms of nation-building are the classic period of Anderson's analysis, the Liberal revolution, from which infrastructural developments were generated, schooling was envisioned, the national money the sucre was inaugurated and state structures around law and order, taxation and citizenship emerged. Central to the nation-building project throughout has been the military which, as in other states, defined issues of national security but within a situation where, over time, the military organised productive capacity through factories making all kinds of things from foodstuffs to military boots, a bank and latterly the organisation of a football team under the name Nacional. The military vision of Ecuador has also changed over time (Isaacs, 1993). But key moments were the 1960s and 1970s when the military embarked upon a self-conscious modernising and populist integration programme in which the African and indigenous descent populations were to be integrated through community development, technical schools and drafted into the army for military service — although many of the respondents in a recent study (Radcliffe and Westwood, 1996) had avoided this by one means or another. This was a marked shift in the imaginary of the nation which had previously placed these sections of the population at the periphery of the nation in relation to an ideology of mestizaje. Instead, this new inclusivity was located in a vision of the nation with a refashioned history and national time/space frame. For those who were the recipients of these policies it looked rather different and was characterised as colonial incursions, a language still in use by peoples in Amazonia and the highlands. This was a changing nation-building project generated from within but also from without. Ecuador has always been produced as a national entity against the externalities of both North America and, closer to home, Peru, which is the 'enemy on the border'. This is a border which still erupts into periodic wars (most recently 1995; see Radcliffe, 1996), confrontations and standoffs (most recently 1997), and peace treaties (most recently 1999) which is constructed as the national line which must be defended at all costs in the interests, not simply of national security, but national integrity. Put simply, Peru is 'the Other' of Ecuadorean national identity. It is the centring mechanism, called up by government, politicians and most importantly the military.
Against this centring, from the beginnings of national projects, has been the attendant and increasingly contradictory process of globalisation. Raymond Williams (1983), for example, saw no contradiction because nation-states were an efficient way to organise orderly markets for the global development of capitalism. This economistic account ignores, of course, the huge emotional, cultural and ideological investments on the part of states and individuals in the nation-building project. All of these processes are part of the globalisation process as much as the economic relations which tend to be privileged in extant accounts of the globalising power of finance capital. Nevertheless, in complex and subtle ways the current processes of globalisation are ostensibly marked by a lack of contradictions glossed in an account of niche marketing of places and peoples in relation to the consumption of the world through tourism. One of the major ways in which the global and the local are brought together is through the selling of folkloric elements, including ethnicities, as part of the tourist package, from postcards to the workers in the major hotels. Crain's (1996) account of the ways in which hotels recruit women workers in Quito on the basis of their ethnicity, which is reinvented for tourist consumption and performed in relation to a specific market, is one example of the negotiations between nationals and the economic demands of global consumption. The women involved are not unknowingly inserted into the tourist trade but are conscious of the aesthetics of tourism and they maximise their difference in the sale of their labour power. Equally well known are the traders of Otavalo in Ecuador with their distinctive dress and folk idiom which is marketised around the world, especially to North America, where they sell their now famous woven wall hangings. Kyle (1999: 437) in a study tracing the historical roots of this transnational trade emphasises recent changes to production and the use of materials and the ways in which traders 'jealously guard client contacts' in an increasingly globalised market. The clothes that the Otavalan traders wear and the long plaits of the men enhance the notion of authenticity just as the dress and demeanour of the women working in the hotels do.
However, to emphasise the global versus the local as though it were a new phenomenon is also problematic, for what Williams and countless others remind us is that the global was ever-present and that most modern states were in part generated out of plunder, colonial expansion and a protest against both. The historical global processes included both centring and decentring elements throughout — the African disapora and enslavement which moved African peoples around the globe, the plantation economies, the trade in goods, and the development of economies in relation to the unequal exchange of capitalist development are in part a shared history.
This history of unequal exchange and exploitation of peoples, products and land which has generated capitalist development also produced what was called a 'comprador bourgeoisie' with interests allied to Western capitalism rather than indigenous concerns in the home country. But this was always only one part of the story. It did not give enough credibility to indigenous development and the power of indigenous capitalism (this has been noteworthy in accounts of India, for example). However, the importation into Latin America (encouraged by the US) of neo-liberal economic programmes has put a new spin on the relations between nations and global economic processes. The interesting contradiction in these processes is that while transnational corporations, like the oil companies Texaco and BP in Ecuador and Colombia, decentre the nation, they also provide a focus for national feeling and a way of mobilising national sentiment — as President Bucaram discovered, like politicians before him. In 1993—4 in Ecuador there were large street demonstrations against the privatisation programmes, especially the privatisation of electricity. Central to the protest and alongside the labour unions and citizens was the army who protested against the sell-off on the grounds of national security. This is because more than at any previous juncture privatisation means foreign capital can buy up what have previously been seen to constitute national assets — electricity, water, telecommunications, coal, minerals, etc. (as can be seen in the case of the Philippines, for example, which is now all but owned by multinational corporations with US parent companies). The subtle version invokes a partnership with national government or local capital — like the De Beers mines in Namibia and Botswana where De Beers, the diamond cartel, owns half of the major national asset of these countries. The same processes have marked the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America and a small country like Ecuador burdened by debt was easy to sell. Inevitably, the privatisation programme was coupled with a World Bank structural adjustment programme culminating in Ecuador becoming a dollar zone. National governments then become management committees for a model of capitalist development which involves an endless round of negotiations with multinational and large corporations and the World Bank — out of which are claimed the great success stories like Chile. The media coverage suggests success. The Guardian (15 February 1996), for example, ran the headline 'Dancing to a happier beat in Latin America' which celebrated the fall in inflation, the growth of consumption especially in Argentina, and the prospects for British investment overall, reminding business at a seminar in London that the British have a long history of investment in Latin America. However, fortunes have changed again and by now economic crises have made investors nervous once again. Chile remains favoured and successful, so much so that it is now planning to join NAFTA rather than the Latin American 'common market', MERCOSUR!
These globalisation processes have generated additional stories, including the attempt through international law to bring General Pinochet to trial for crimes against humanity following the overthrow of Allende in Chile. The long and protracted legal process succeeded in keeping the general in Britain for an extended period of time. Although he was returned to Chile on medical grounds and appears to be rather more healthy than was suggested, the process does signal the importance of a global public culture which seeks legal remedies. The attempt to make a head of state accountable in international law is also viewed as an affront to the integrity of the nation-state and contributes to the decentring of the nation.
However, the opposition to General Pinochet is not the only form of opposition. The guerrillas in Colombia regularly blow up the BP pipeline as part of an ongoing war of attrition and organised labour and allies have regularly protested against neo-liberal policies in Ecuador. In part, opposition groups can also learn from the processes of globalisation d because multi-media televisual globalisation is not simply a homogenous product. Television is not a simple case of cultural imperialism as it was understood in the 1970s. This took no account of the differential receptions generated, in part, from the viewers in what Martin-Barbero (1993) has called 'mediations' — the encounter between the life experience and cognitive maps of the viewer with media products. Clearly, the US and latterly Rupert Murdoch do exercise an unprecedented level of control over media companies but this does not automatically translate into specific products. (Sun journalists in Britain occupy a variety of ideological positions, some deeply opposed to the Sun — a tabloid newspaper owned by Murdoch.) Equally, the fourth largest media company in the world is the Brazilian Globo company which exports media products including Xusha and telenovelas around the world (Simpson, 1993). Importantly, for the politics of protest and contestation, street demonstrations are good television and protests in many parts of the world are globalised, whether it is workers in the streets of Quito or in Taiwan, or ecowarriors protesting against genetically modified foods or against the World Trade Organisation. Many groups learn lessons and tactics from this global news constructed by CNN or BBC WorldWide as the purveyors of images and text. As many of the media studies have shown it is not possible to simply read a message from the political economy of media ownership, but there are frames in which representations are produced. For example, 'making the news' does rely on being in places already designated newsworthy with the relevant technology to hand. The diversity of media companies via satellite means, however, that these companies are available for news coverage as the Zapatistas have shown, especially in tandem with the use of the World Wide Web.
While the global media make world citizens of us all, including people in Ecuador and Colombia, these countries also have their own networks and the promotion of a national story through television and programming — the nine o'clock news is a familiar story of national time in countries around the world. This presents a vision of the nation to itself and politicians are keenly aware of the role of television in the making of the nation. For the most part national TV works within ...

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Citation styles for Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging
APA 6 Citation
Phizacklea, A., Westwood, S., & Westwood, S. (2013). Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2013)
Chicago Citation
Phizacklea, Annie, Sallie Westwood, and Sallie Westwood. (2013) 2013. Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Phizacklea, A., Westwood, S. and Westwood, S. (2013) Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Phizacklea, Annie, Sallie Westwood, and Sallie Westwood. Trans-Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.