The ‘Non-Nationals': Multicultural Identity Making Amongst a Group of High-Skilled Migrants in Amsterdam

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Irene SKOVGAARD-SMITH, Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom
This paper is based on an ethnographic study of a diverse community of high-skilled migrants living and working in Amsterdam carving out global careers in multinational corporations (MNCs). The aim is to explore the emergence of new forms of collective identification that is neither national, ethnic nor diasporic. More specifically a form described in various emic terms as 'a non-national nationality', 'an international nationality' or 'a new nationality called globalism' as constituted by high-skilled migrants embedded in global environments and diverse networks in a global city context.

The argument put forward is that this form is analytically distinguishable from other forms of collective identity construction by a specific pattern in the dialectic of internal definition of ‘us’ and external differentiation in relation to other collectivities. Internal definition revolves around constructing difference rather than similarity. This particular symbolic signification of culture difference renders it benign and condenses it to make it suitable for aggregation and appropriation as a source of collective identification. This is achieved by way of a dual repertoire of both emphasising and downplaying difference in shifting ways to establish a notion of ‘us’ as united in difference drawing on discourses of multiculturalism as a ‘melting pot’ and cosmopolitan notions of openness. External differentiation on the other hand revolves around the construction of the local and the national as the antithesis, thereby establishing the boundary that is constitutive of collective identification. Boundary drawing is achieved through differentiation in relation to local nationals and more abstractly any national monoculture. Overlapping repertoires of the local as nationally embedded and the national as monocultural majority is evoked to construct the otherness in relation to which it becomes possible to conceive a multicultural, translocal collective identity. However, this sense of collective belonging is transcient, ambigious and context-dependent suggesting a range of potentially problematic implications.