Transnational Studies Initiative

We live in a world on the move. According to the World Bank, one out of every seven people in the world today is an international or internal migrant who moves by choice or because they are forced to flee. These individuals send a lot of money, ideas, and practices back home and sending governments, which now depend upon them, want to make sure these flows keep coming. They offer emigrants incentives to stay connected to their homelands including the expatriate vote, dual citizenship, or absentee representation in the national legislature.

For some, living across borders comes easily. They have the education, skills, and social contacts to take advantage of opportunities anywhere. Many more, who have fewer skills and education, are forced to live transnational lives because they cannot provide for their families in the places where they come from nor in the places where they move. Either way, migrants today move in a world of neoliberal restructuring, precarious jobs, cutbacks in social welfare, and heightened nationalism.

These dynamics challenge basic assumptions about how and where inequality is produced, family life gets lived, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship get fulfilled. They require us to create new kinds of social safety nets and institutions that respond more effectively to people’s mobile lives. They demand that we reframe our understandings of social problems and their solutions. What would we see, for example, when we connect climate change in Calcutta to climate change in California, gang violence in El Salvador to gang violence in Los Angeles, or high infant mortality rates in Mexico with similarly poor indicators in New York City?

This year TSI will be joining forces with the new "Politics and Social Change" (PSC) Workshop hosted by Harvard's Sociology Department. We will broaden our scope to include political sociology, political economy, development organizations/institutions, political organizations/institutions, policy making and social movements. We will ask how the national and the transnational are intertwined and mutually reinforce and/or thwart each other.

Faculty and graduate students from Harvard as well as other Boston-area institutions are invited to present their ongoing research. We will meet twice each month – one meeting will be devoted to workshop presentations and a second meeting will be devoted to public lectures on topics related to our shared interests. Open to the public. The seminar is co-chaired by Jocelyn Viterna, associate professor of sociology, Harvard University, and Peggy Levitt, Chair and Professor of sociology, Wellesley College.

Faculty Sponsors Jocelyn Viterna, Peggy Levitt (Wellesley College)
Workshop Coordinator John C. Arroyo (MIT)
Mailing List
Email Contact John C. Arroyo, Graduate Student
See also: Workshops List