Monday, June 04, 2012

The Liminal Economy

Author Salman Rushdie introduced me to transnational identity. We dehumanize international migrants. They are the bastard children of some homeland and persona non grata in the "receiving" country. They are between localities. These liminal peoples now define the current economic geography. Rushdie on the current epoch:

“We live in the age of migration. There are more people now living in countries in which they were not born than in the rest of human history combined.

Look at any big city in the world and you see a pluralised, hybridised, diverse culture. The end of the monoculture is the phenomenon of our generation.

“I myself am a migrant, a first generation migrant to this country. A thing that happens to migrants is that they lose many of the traditional things which root identity, which root the self.

“The roots of self are the place that you know, the community that you come from, the language that you speak and the cultural assumptions within which you grow up.

“Those are the four great roots of the self and very, very often what happens to migrants is that they lose all four - they’re in a different place, speaking an alien language, amongst people who don’t know them and the cultural assumptions are very different. You can see that’s something traumatic.

“The question both indigenous and communities of migrants have to ask themselves is the question of adaptation - what do you absorb from the world in which you live, what do you retain from the world from which you came and how do you make that transaction?”

Emphasis added. Cities are the end of the monoculture and the rooted. This landscape of trauma fuels innovation and creativity. This, not density and proximity, is the engine of economic development.

Thanks to the age of migration, we live in an urban world. But Rushdie is not talking about moving from a rural area to an urban one. His peer group is an elite class, agents of globalization. International flows of both skilled and unskilled workers are driving global economic development. The Talent Economy is a liminal economy, something that is of decreasing benefit to those stuck in place.

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