In Conceptualizing Simultaneity: A Transnational Social Field Perspective on Society, a chapterfrom The Transnational Studies Reader – Intersections & Innovations (2008), Peggy Levitt and Nina Glick Schiller identify the dynamics of how individuals act as entities to design the transnational structure with enduring migrant experiences in a social field. They elucidate the concept of social fields as a tool that conceptualizes the social relations between the individuals that move and the individuals that stay behind in a nation-state. The individuals are rather themselves the medium of creating a complex system of being and belonging thereby giving new dimensions to transnationalism through migration and non-migration.
The individuals create a web of connection that is unaffected by migration between borders. It is quite interesting to see how an individual’s ways of being is placed in contrast with his ways of belonging and the intricacies of circumstantial developments when these two parameters come together within him. The ways of being, according to Levitt and Schiller, is the “actual social relations and practices that individuals engage in” (287), whereas the ways of belonging is, “the practices that signal or enact an identity which demonstrates a conscious connection to a particular group”, like “wearing a Christian cross or a Jewish star” (287). According to the essay, there are different ways an individual behaves and connects with other individuals “across the borders of a nation-state, or globally without ever having migrated” (287). They further say, “Individuals within transnational social fields combine ways of being and ways of belonging differently in specific contexts.”(287). The different ways of connecting, as mentioned in the essay can be summarized in the following ways. First, a person may have many social contacts in the place of his origin but may not necessarily have belonging to the place. Second, a person with no actual social relations may still identify himself with a group and hence connect by the means of memory, nostalgia or imagination- that is the way of belonging for him.
They further explain that when people stay connected through social relations across border on a regular basis, they exhibit a particular way of being and when people recognize this behaviour and identify a compulsive belonging to the transnational element, they exhibit a particular way of belonging. However, the act of moving to a new place and the transnational attachment an individual possesses may not be binary opposites. Rather, it blends in to form a new transnational incorporation in the form of an individual entity in a new place. Finally, the writers emphasize on the individuals’ role in the creation of a new transnational system by bringing into account the nature of the movements across borders. “Movement and attachment is not linear or sequential but capable of rotating back and forth and changing direction over time….Persons change and swing one way or the other depending on the context, thus moving our expectation away from either full assimilation or transnational connection but some combination of both.” (288). Therefore, individuals can be seen as instruments for creating a larger intertwined system that is characterized by an unavoidable flux of social, political and cultural amalgamation melting away borders and boundaries.