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Crossing the Globe: A Voyage of Discovery

By Preston Price

    Migration and Culture class was extremely educational and effective for more than one particular reason.  For one, we are in a new era of globalization and migration plays a key role in the global economy of today, so this class was effective in  teaching someone important issues for understanding our present day world.  The class is also relevant to the Semester at Sea voyage because one can personally observe and visually witness signs of migration in numerous places across the globe thus realize the extent to which migration is a global phenomenon.  By taking Migration and Culture along with participating in Semester at Sea, I have become more aware of the reality that this is a global world that we currently live in.

    Migration has reshaped the old concept of nationalism.  This is explained in the article by Schiller, Basch, and Blanc-Szanton, titled “Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration.”  This article describes the effects of globalization by pointing out the interconnectedness of people and places.  According to the authors, the process by which immigrants create social networks by linking together their country of origin with their country of settlement can be conceptualized as transnationalism and such modern day migrants are labeled transmigrants.  Transnationalism has threatened national sovereignty while establishing a global economy.  I don’t think transnationalism is necessarily a good or bad thing, instead I view transnationalism as being a transition period in the social evolution of humanity.  Transnationalism has however, impacted anthropological fieldwork by extinguishing single-sited ethnographic studies.  People are no longer tied just to one place over time but rather interconnected with multiple places, whether it be from the individuals themselves moving or the historical movement of their ancestors.  In reference to the article “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography,” George Marcus defines modern anthropological fieldwork as being multi-sited.  However, in doing a cross-cultural study with Semester at Sea would only assure that my observational research is multi-sited.  By analyzing the observations that I took in both the Asian and Mediterranean regions, I will gain a valid understanding of migration as a global system.

Below are two links to papers that I will be disussing.


    Crossing the globe was beneficial to my analysis of migration within a global framework.  Two significant places where I witnessed migration was in Hong Kong and Istanbul, Turkey.  Hong Kong was unique in that I noticed signs of Migration in abundance.  The book Age of Migration by Castles and Miller, depicts Hong Kong as both a labor importing and labor exporting region, but I got the impression that it was more involved with migrant receiving.  First of all, I was overwhelmed by the ethnic diversity and large number of foreigners there.  I noticed mass quantities of migrants like I had never seen before.  The Filipina workers that I discussed in my mini-ethnographic paper “The Hong Kong Melting Pot,” further explains this.  After being there, I got the impression that there are few people that are born and raised there.  Hong Kong appeared to me to be culturally unique, maybe because it is an unusual blending of the East and the West.  For this reason, I am confident that the many people that live in Hong Kong but were born and raised somewhere else must experience cultural hardships.  This presumption can be better understood by relating it to Sandra Soo-Jin Lee’s article, “Dys-appearing Tongues and Bodily Memories: The Aging of First-Generation Resident Koreans in Japan.”  In her article, she explains that many elderly, first-generation Koreans living in Japan have difficulty when it comes to eating spicy Korean food, reflecting their struggles in finding their identity in Japanese society.  As an important side note, Korean unlike Japanese food is known to be very spicy, so being able to handle spicy food is revered by Koreans and is a way of establishing their identity.

     The demographic makeup in Turkey was surprisingly very homogenous, and I failed to witness many signs of migration within the general population.  This was no surprise because Castles and Miller lists Turkey as predominately being a migrant sending country, specifically responsible for sending many emigrants to Germany.  In terms of migration, my overall experience in Turkey was unique in a much different way from that of Hong Kong.  Instead of noticing signs of migration in abundance, it was rather one specific event in Istanbul involving sex workers that resulted in my understanding of migration there.  This event is elaborated on in my mini-ethnographic paper, “Sex Work in Istanbul.”  I would like say that human smuggling and trafficking of women and children is currently a major concern for organizations or governing bodies that deal with criminal issues.  According to Castles and Miller’s book, The Age of Migration, global human trafficking is thought to involve hundreds of millions of people and may generate a profit of ten billion dollars per year.  It is not just bound to eastern Europe, but is a global issue that is indicative to globalization.  The possibility of eradicating the sex industry is extremely difficult because it is a transnational phenomenon and therefore a single national government cannot resolve the problem.  Hopefully, international organizations that are capable of dealing with such an issue will soon come up with a solution.

    Although the intensity of migration is relative from place to place, I have witnessed first hand that it is a global occurrence.  I found it to be present in every place that I visited on my Semester at Sea voyage, including both the Mediterranean and Asian regions.  It is evident to me that there are pros and cons to migration, but as I mentioned before, it is in my opinion simply a product of basic social and economic evolution.  However, many nations around the world are concerned with their economic status and so are dealing with regulating unwanted immigration.  The Age of Migration states “The only realistic long-term hope for reduction of international migration is broad based, sustainable development in the less-developed countries, enabling economic growth to keep pace with growth in the population and labor force.”  

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