Singing a New Song? Transnational Migration, Methodological Nationalism and Cosmopolitan Perspectives


  • Nina Glick Schiller University of Manchester
  • Ulrike Hanna Meinhof University of Southampton


methodological nationalism, transnational, migration, Madagascar, cosmopolitanism


The question posed by this article is how all of us - scholars, musicians, citizens of the world can step out of the migrant/native divide and still leave room to study and theorize creative processes that bring together the intertwining of cultural influences. How can we discard a concept of hybridity with its implications of a prior state of native purity and address the ongoing mutual interactions that unfold within migration processes? This is an ever pressing question for cultural theory in a world in which there is widespread migration and a cyberspace environment of multiple interconnections. Migration provides a base for theorizing cultural processes that extend beyond the specificity of people crossing borders.

In order to begin answering this question it is useful to ask when and why do we see a migrant/ foreigner vs. native divide in the first place. This divide reflects and reinforces a tendency in various disciplines to equate nation-state boundaries with the concept of society. In the first section of this article, we will explore the nature and implications of methodological nationalism and place it within a historical context. In its stead we will offer what Glick Schiller has called “a global power perspective on migration” (Glick Schiller, 2009, 2010b). In the second part of the paper we will apply this perspective to case studies of the transnational social field of musical creation that stretches between Europe and localities of artistic production in Africa. Focusing on the movements and interconnections of musicians of Malagasy origin, we will illustrate the ways in which transnational networking can give rise to substantial ‘transcultural capital’, (Kiwan and Meinhof, 2011; Meinhof, 2009; Meinhof and Triandafyllidou, 2006b) and thus underpin the professionalization of some artists, but can also reflect the inequalities and multiple pressures for authenticity in the world music market.

Author Biographies

Nina Glick Schiller, University of Manchester

Director,Research Institute for Cosmopolitan CulturesProfessor, Social Anthropology

Ulrike Hanna Meinhof, University of Southampton

Professor in German and Cultural Studies