As the COVID-19 pandemic rendered people around the world homebound, home for some US citizens turned out to be the colonial town of Granada, along the shores of Central America’s largest lake, Lake Nicaragua, in a country many of these settlers had known only as the bloody battleground of the revolutionary Sandinistas and the counter-revolutionary (US-Backed) Contras.
These ‘expats’ began migrating to Nicaragua, in earnest, in the early 2000s (though an American presence in the country extends much further back in history). They are drawn by a quest for adventure, but also by affordable, spacious Colonial-era homes, maids and gardeners, and upscale restaurants in a country ranked second poorest in Latin America. In stark contrast to the attention focused on ‘caravans’ of migrants fleeing Central America en route to the US, these US citizens and other north-south migrants go generally unnoticed in the public discourse on global migration.
My Identities article, ‘Rooted in relative privilege: US ‘expats’ in Granada, Nicaragua’, examines this group of international migrants, incorporating some of the same concepts used to study their counterparts moving from the Global South to the Global North. Based on fieldwork in Granada, Nicaragua and in-depth interviews with 30 US citizens who have made their homes there, I focus on how these individuals negotiate a sense of identity and belonging as US citizens residing full-time in Nicaragua.
When asked about their primary identification, the majority of respondents (22 of 30) replied with: ‘American’. They described maintaining close social, emotional and cultural ties to the US – more so than political ties. At the same time, they also shared feelings of attachment and identification with their adopted land. This attachment was primarily to the town where they were making their homes, Granada, and to fellow ‘expats’ with whom they were forming community. But it extended as well to local ‘Nicas’ who they were being served by in restaurants, bars, markets and in their homes as hired maids, cooks and gardeners, or who they were serving through charitable organisations dedicated to providing assistance to the host community in areas of education, medical care and other social services. It was not unusual for US migrants to use the pronoun ‘we’ simultaneously in reference to Granada, or Nicaragua, and in reference to Americans, or the US.
In many ways, these US citizens living in Nicaragua fit the model of ‘transmigrants’ introduced by sociologists in the early 1990s, to describe those who ‘take actions, make decisions, and develop subjectivities and identities embedded in networks of relationships that connect them simultaneously to two or more nation-states’ (Basch, Glick-Schiller & Blanc 1994, 3). An even closer fit comes from a revised analysis of transnationalism in 2004, which emphasises the predominance of ‘bi-localism’, or trans-state connections between particular places, here and there (Waldinger & Fitzgerald 2004, 1182).
While familiar concepts in the study of international migration shed light on the transnational mobility of privileged migrants too, the practices of this less familiar group also help us to refine existing concepts. Given that transnationalism has been largely theorised on the basis of, and applied to, migrants leaving less affluent countries for more affluent ones, case studies of the reverse migratory trend are instructive. Border crossing as a mechanism for navigating the vagaries of 21-century globalisation is becoming more widespread, but the degree of economic, political and cultural privilege of the trans-migrants fundamentally shapes the nature of the transnational ties they form and maintain.
Basch, L., Glick Schiller, N. & Szanton Blanc, C. 1994. Nations unbound:
transnational projects, postcolonial predicaments, and deterritorialized nation states. Langhorne, PA: Gordon and Breach.
Waldinger, R. & Fitzgerald, D. 2004. Transnationalism in question. American
Journal of Sociology 109 (5): 1177–1195.
Blog post by Sheila Croucher, Miami University, USA
Read the full article: Croucher, Sheila. Rooted in relative privilege: US ‘expats’ in Granada, Nicaragua. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2016.1260022
‘And so it begins. India’s settler-colonial project has arrived’, reads the headline of The Medium on the 31st of October 2019. It must be noted that Indian setter-colonialism arrived through a longer colonial engagement, a brutal history of Indian denial of Kashmiri self-determination since October 1947.
On the 5th of August 2019, the Indian government executed a legally questionable constitutional annexation of the state of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir after placing Kashmiris under an unprecedented digital and physical lockdown, a military siege. Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status has long suffered what Duschinski and Ghosh have called a process of occupational constitutionalism. The Jammu and Kashmir Land Reorganisation Act 2019, enacted on the 5th of August, came into effect on the 31st of October 2019. Kashmiris, whose right to determine their political future has been denied for 72 years, will now no longer have the right to exclusive ownership in their land. The Indian government has been busily attracting domestic and foreign investment. A member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament has called for Indian settlers from the armed forces to move into Kashmir. These settler-colonial moves further militarise and destroy an already fragile ecology. Caged physically and digitally, Kashmiris face a demographic change. The Indian state’s record of widespread extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual assault, enforced disappearances and mass graves over the last 30 years has been referenced by the Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner reports of 2018 and 2019. The militarisation and the threat of demographic change have prompted the US-based Genocide Watch to issue a genocide alert for Kashmir.
My Identities article, 'Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity', maps the arrival of Indian settler-colonialism through India’s relationship with another settler-colonial state, Israel. The article argues that Indian leftist as well as state anti-colonial solidarity with Palestine since 1947 must take account of India’s covert and overt relationship and arms trade with the state of Israel since the 1950s. The arms trade alliance is significant as successive Indian governments have intermittently expressed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom with reference to India’s own anti-colonial struggle. In practice, these governments have been supporting the occupation of Palestine. Beyond this, India’s leftist solidarity with Palestine, concretely expressed through the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in India, needs to take account of India’s colonial engagement with Kashmir since 1947, rather than place the blame solely on the current Hindu-nationalist or Hindutva government’s overt celebration of its alliance with Israel.
Kashmir and Palestine are significant for the India-Israel relationship. In a post-9/11 context, the master narrative of counter-terrorism has been seized upon by governments around the world to crush dissent as well as liberation struggles. The India-Israel burgeoning arms trade, now worth billions of dollars, is based on this narrative and cites the need to attack Palestinian and Kashmiri liberation struggles in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’. The Israel-India partnership in arms involves the deployment of counter-insurgency forces, drones and arms against other populations in India as well. But Kashmiri and Palestinian anti-colonial struggles are distinct targets; India-Israel relations embody a partnership in mutual colonial occupation and state violence in Kashmir and Palestine. This violence is all the more galling as the Indian state doles out development aid for Palestine even as it banks on its anti-colonial capital in its relationship with Palestinians.
The Latin term ĭtĭnĕrārĭus arrived into middle English with the connotation of a reflection on a journey. When I first began writing my article, ‘Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity’, I was not aware of this connotation. I am now struck by how appropriate the term is. In the article, I reflect upon my itinerary of learning about Indian colonialism and brutality in Kashmir, understanding the itineraries of kinship between networks of colonialisms, and learning of the resistance itineraries of solidarities between Kashmir and Palestine. This article is thus an invitation to reflect on the significance of Kashmiri anti-colonial struggle in developing a ‘shared vocabulary of struggle’, dreaming ‘freedom dreams’, as Professor Angela Davis argues, against settler-colonialism and state violence.
Blog post by Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick, UK
Read the full article: Osuri, Goldie. Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1675334
Read related Identities blog articles:
Decolonial solidarity in Palestine-Israel by Teodora Todorova
Everyday dilemmas of walking under curfew in Kashmir by Mohamad Junaid