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Crossing the Globe: One Person at a Time

By Rip Ritchie


   Migration has been evident in every country that I have traveled to in this circumnavigation of the globe.  It is now obvious to me that it is a worldwide phenomenon that pervades the economic and social fabric of every society on the earth.  It can be called globalization, or it can be referred to as human nature, but either way migration describes the evolution of human history.  From the earliest origins of the human species, people have been spreading out across the land and transporting our species to ever crevice of our planet.  We are a like all living things, even a virus, that has an interest in survival.  Resources are essential to our survival and the original migration of humans reflects a need to access these resources.  Intense competition in one specific geographic location leads to movement for easier or more reliable access to necessities. As production mechanisms shifted from nomadic and hunting and gathering to a more sedentary lifestyle, like agriculture, some of this original migration slowed down.  People stayed in a location because their mode of production increased the availability of resources. A specialization of labor led to the development of urban areas and distinct population centers. With this security, populations increased and put new stresses on human populous.  People were further removed from actual attainment of essential resources and the mode of production became increasingly complicated. greatwall
   In the modern world, the system of production and distribution to populations around the globe has become incredibly sophisticated.  This is where the system of globalization comes into play.  Food that is grown in Brazil can be used to supply citizens in Europe with their essential resources.  Furthermore, because of the specialization of labor and industry a person in Pittsburgh can be essential for the transport of these resources from one location to another.  This makes access to resources very complicated and inequalities have developed around the globe.  Some areas have developed more intensely than others and have a greater access to these resources.  In this sense, there are countries and areas around the world that are centers of access.  It does not matter where the areas of production are in the modern world, just the areas of access.  For this reason, many people around the world cannot attain the resources they need for their families and themselves to survive.  Migration does not serve as a solution to this problem in the poorest areas of the world.  They have no means of transport and no existing connections to areas of high-access.  The areas of high migration are hence from moderately developed regions of the world where large amounts of the population cannot access resources because access is limited.  When this is the case, many individuals choose to migrate to a highly developed country where access to resources will be more available.  This process characterizes migration in the modern world.  People are migrating from areas of middle to high development so that they can have a better chance of accessing resources. 

These two examples show some of the specific cases of migration that I witnessed while crossing the globe.  They follow this trend of modern migration and help to illustrate some of the different factors and situations that lead individuals to migrate.


    These two cases show modern examples of the movement of people around the globe.  The first example illustrates the migration of Filipinos to Hong Kong.  As I wandered around the streets of Hong Kong, it was incredibly obvious to me that there was a large amount of migration to the area.  I was lucky to be in the city on a Sunday, because it is the traditional day off for Filipino migrant women.  They infiltrate certain areas of the city and make their presence incredibly obvious.  These women have come to Hong Kong in search of work.  They cannot access employment in their home country and therefore cannot access the necessary resources to survive.  Because there is a large amount of development and wealth in Hong Kong, the availability of jobs for maids is large.  It is the need on both ends of the spectrum that creates this exchange.  There is opportunity in Hong Kong and this brings the Filipino women.  Most of these women receive good wages in contrast to comparable employment in the Philippines.  They are able to live in Hong Kong and work while simultaneously sending money back to their homes so that their families can support themselves and survive. 
   Most of these women are obviously discriminated against in Hong Kong.  For Schiller, Basch and Blanc-Szanton in their article “Transnationalism: A New Analytical Framework hong kongfor Understanding Migration”, this is an inevitability of this migration.  People tend to have misconceptions about why people are migrating and do not understand the process well.  Many people consider these people to be less intelligent because they are coming and working lower-level jobs such as being a maid.  They think these people want to leave their country in order to find a new life.  This is not true of the situation. Schiller, Basch and Blanc-Szanton explain how the new migrant “maintain multiple relations: familial, economic, social, organizational, religious, and political that span borders.”  These migrants are not people just seeking a new life, but are moving out of necessity.  They do not want to leave home and maintain many connections.  They do not want to assimilate to Hong Kong culture and society because they love the Philippines and their family there.  They are still very much connected to the Philippines with their families and creating cultural ties that span international boundaries.  Because of these ties, there is a cultural exchange between the country of origin and the receiving country.  The Filipino women are having a distinct unintended impact on the culture of Hong Kong. 
   This is a new form of migration that is occurring around the world.  With new forms of communication and transportation, it is possible for migrants to stay incredibly connected with their place of origin.  Instead of moving to access resources in a place where they are more readily accessible, people can now move to these places and send some of the accessibility back to their families and home countries.  The implications of this sort of exchange are immense.  Cultures and traditions are flowing across the globe, as assimilation is not the only option for migrants.  Filipino society can now exist in Hong Kong in a small enclave because the women do not have to assimilate to be Hong Kong.  This affects the people that they are in contact with, which happen to be a lot because of their incredibly visible presence on a weekly basis.  Issues such as race and discrimination do not play as big of a role in this situation because it does not affect their ability to access resources.  It is a form of temporary migration with their options being clearly understood.  They are not assimilating and trying to make a permanent and generational spot in the receiving society. 
   The form of migration that I witnessed in Turkey is a part of the informal economy.  These women that are trafficked to be sex workers are not legal migrants and official residents in Turkey.  They are often tricked into leaving their country and get stuck in the destination country.  When talking to one of the workers, she left for the same reasons that other migrants are leaving their countries.  She is a fairly well educated woman with a college degree, but could not get employment.  Without a job, she could not access the resources that she needed to survive.  She had attempted to go to Turkey to seek employment and had been trapped into sexual enslavement. 
   Saskia Sassen talks about the movement of people like this in her article “Migration policy: from control to governance.”  She explains that borders and border policy is often vietnamnot effective in curbing the flow of migrants.  It is the conditions in both the sending and receiving countries that creates the movement trends.  In this case, it is the breakdown of the former Soviet Union that has helped to facilitate the movement.  Rita said that there is absolutely no problem in being transported out of Russia and into Turkey or any other country in the region.  This is one of the reasons that she decided to leave and seek employment, because it is easy.  It seems to me that if the borders were more difficult to cross, the process could be more expensive and prohibiting.  Women, however, would continue to be trafficked.  Sassen describes that militarizing borders and increasing control does not stop this movement.  Though, if the process was more formal it might contribute to more forms of legal migration.  It is a possibility that this woman would not have been enslaved and could have migrated to Turkey or some other country and found employment in a safe and desirable manner. 

   When talking to this woman I also thought it was very interesting how she maintained her Russian identity.  She spoke English, which helped her to talk to potential customers, but otherwise she only spoke Russian.  She was not interested in learning Turkish because she was not interested in assimilating in the slightest.  There were other Russian girls there, and she would talk to them in her native tongue.  This appears to be her only method of fighting her enslavement.  Amitava Kumar discusses this issue of language use in his article “Passport Photos.”  He talks about how migrants often use their language to hold on to their previous identity.  It is a means for the migrant to actively express their original culture and identity.  In this case, it may be the only way that this woman can continue to identify with her past because she is being forced to live in this new culture.  Language is a very powerful means of self-identification.  Even though this woman is being enslaved in Turkey, she will continue to be Russian.  She is proud of who she is and has no desire to change.  Perhaps one day she will be freed and will not have lost the characteristics that have shaped who she is for most of her life. 


    These two examples help to show real-life examples of forms of migration from around the world.  The women from the Philippines exemplify the modern processes that are occurring around the world.  They cannotegypt collumns access resources in their home country appropriately so they are moving somewhere else where access is more abundant.  The woman in Turkey is doing the same thing, but characterizes another form of the process.  Her situation is a negative aspect of the global migratory process.  She was interested in leaving because she could not attain necessities, but was caught in the process.  She was put into an undesirable and unknown form of employment because the mechanisms that made her leave left her vulnerable. 
   Both of these cases show how people are moving around the world.  These people are leaving out of necessity, not because they want to start a new life somewhere else.  Most of them also have hopes or plans to return to their country of origin.  They create connections to their home country that create an exchange that crosses international boundaries.  Cultures are being mixed and language, ideas and practices are infiltrating new parts of the world.  Both the receiving and sending countries are changing because of this process.  In history, people would migrate outwards and have limited means of communication back to their origins.  This would lead to unique cultural developments and adaptations.  In the modern age, due to technological breakthroughs in communication and transportation, migrants remain connected to their countries of origin.  They do not assimilate to the new culture because it is not immediately necessary.  As they retain their original heritage, and continue to be immersed in a new society, both sides of the connection endure a uniquely modern cultural exchange. 

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