In recent decades, the study of migration and diasporic communities has been shaped by the ‘transnationalist’ perspective where global migrants move across multicultural and borderless social spaces. However, this term is often used statically and in ways that imply essentialized notions of identity and culture. This paper argues that we need to historicize the migratory process if we were to develop a more complete notion of transnational migration. The importance of historicization is seen in the case of migrants from Goa on the west coast of India. Goa was colonized by the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century and Goans, who were forcibly converted to Catholicism, adopted the names, language and cultural norms of the colonizer. Starting in the early nineteenth century, Goans began migrating to British India, East and Southern Africa, and Portugal in search of work. This migratory pattern shaped the Goan experience and identity: having traversed multiple social, cultural, and political spaces they developed a sense of themselves that was cosmopolitan and hybrid whereby they defined themselves not in static terms but in ways that showed their complex formation as migrants who inhabited the worlds of India, Portugal, and Africa. Thus, any effort to explain the transnational flow of people has to account for the way in which migrant groups have been shaped by the historical conditions of migration.
|Keywords:||Transnational Migration, Indian Christians, Goan Catholics, Gujarati Traders, Gujarati Hindus|
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, PA, USA
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