Transnational Engagements: Footscray, Transnational Migration and the Making of Place

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Nicole OKE , College of Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Chris MCCONVILLE , Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Christopher SONN , Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Footscray is an ethnically diverse and rapidly transforming suburb in Melbourne’s inner West, formed in part by overlapping waves of migrants. The Vietnamese diaspora, and more recently migrants from African countries, influence the contemporary mix of people. Migrants’ engagements with more than one society and in various forms of transnational networks are an evident in the way migrants make place in the suburb. The voting and electioneering of South Sudanese migrants in the referendum establishing their nation indicates involvements in transnational politics. Participation in networks of Asian commerce is demonstrated in shops through the suburb. Indian students undertaking a transnational education work in Footscray, including at the Vietnamese market.

Migrants’ transnational experiences, connections and networks are part of the uneven resources available to different groups and individuals as they become embedded in places. For migrants, such networks can be understood, to degree, as contained but geographically disparate “ethnic worlds” (Werbner 1999: 25). But the places in which these networks are located shape the forms of these networks and the resources they offer. Drawing on Smith (2001), these networks “criss-cross” and in doing so interact, challenge and shape one another. To take economic examples, transnational connections provide some migrants with access to capitalisation. But for other migrants their embeddedness in more than one society is a financial constraint, as the payment of remittances can be. Both shape the ways migrants engage in the suburb, and with each other. Local dynamics, too, shape the different strategies available to migrants in negotiating transnational lives and the meanings given to inclusion in more than one society. The inflections towards Asia allows for one set of strategies, while the politics of race in the suburb suggested another. These issues are explored in this paper drawing on interviews and documentary sources from Footscray.