Culture(s) of Mobility: New Global Nomadism and the Influence of International Education  

Abstract Category: Education
Course / Degree: CADES: Cultures and Development
Institution / University: Leuven Catholic University, Belgium
Published in: 2005

Thesis Abstract / Summary:

The popularity of international work and education opportunities is growing exponentially. The occurrence of young adults who graduate from university and head to a foreign country for work or living experiences grows more and more common. They acquire an international network of contacts and may often spend several years in several different countries before settling in one country or heading home. This is a group that is largely falling through the cracks of cultural studies as the existing threads of research fail to define it. In attempting to do so here, this discussion goes beyond the claim that globalization is changing cultures. It addresses a particular aspect of globalization, that of mobility, and exemplifies how it is changing some of the traditional concepts of culture and identity, such as with these "New Global Nomads".

Threads of relevant research are based around a concept developed originally in the 1950s by Drs. David and Ruth Hill Useem. It is called the “Third Culture” and identifies a hybrid cultural space that is created in the gathering of foreigners living or working abroad, formed from the intersection of all of their perspective cultures. It is described as an interstitial culture, operating above the limits of territorial cultures, made up of neither the “first” (home) culture, nor of the “second” (host) culture. In this Third Culture, members are able to identify with each other across their different backgrounds on the fact of their being the Others together in a foreign land. Third Culture research is now an active field, yet it fails to explain the experiences of the modern group researched here or to define it as an actual space of symbols and shared meanings. Such insight has only been developed for Third Culture Kids (TCKs), the children born into this cultural space. Otherwise, focus remains on the mechanics of identity change that occur in adults joining this culture. Lacking a history of understanding of the experiential life the adult members, the “non-native” Third Culture, means that the generational changes that have occurred and the cultural ramifications defined by the trend introduced above have also not been recognized.

This discussion aims foremost to establish a foundation for further research that would address these modern Third Culture members. This is done in two ways. First, a selected body of current topics that are influenced by and of consequence to this modern group is reviewed. These issues serve to comment on the lives of this culture’s members towards an understanding of how today’s landscape makes them unique from the vaguely known Third Culture of fifty years ago. Secondly, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data is gathered from different subsets among this new group to compare against known characteristics of TCKs. A picture of overlapping similarities as well as uniquenesses between the internal life of the TCK and the New Global Nomad will begin to emerge, as will the suggestion of a New Global Nomad “life cycle”. Lastly, the idea that the Third Culture is emerging as a cultural destination in itself will be put forth. All of these outcomes call for more insight from further research along the lines of that proposed in the discussion.

Thesis Keywords/Search Tags:
International Education; Mobility; Third Culture; TCK; expat; Global Nomad

This Thesis Abstract may be cited as follows:
Steegar, Sarah. (2005) "Culture(s) of Mobility: New Global Nomadism and the Influence of International Education", Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

Submission Details: Thesis Abstract submitted by Sarah Steegar from Belgium on 08-Dec-2005 14:48.
Abstract has been viewed 2357 times (since 7 Mar 2010).

Sarah Steegar Contact Details: Email: sarah.steegar@gmail.com

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