Transnationalism in the Analysis of Global Refugee Movements: The Case of the Second World War Polish Jews in Shanghai

Australian National University
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Humanities Review, 2017, 62 pp. 1 - 24
Issue Date:
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The survival of 1000 Polish Jews in wartime Shanghai demonstrates the ways in which transnational theory can be enhanced by empirical testing against ‘real’ situations. The travails, survival strategies, and evolving identities of these refugees can be interpreted through the application of contemporary transnational theory. The only problem in such an approach is that their ‘nation’ (Poland) had been annihilated, their government exiled, and their identities driven as much by ethno-religious as national passions. By re-conceptualising transnational ideas to take account of the expansionary imperatives of empires, the trajectory and sojourns of the refugees more readily expose the contingent, transitory, accidental and momentary dimensions of seeking refuge. While the analysis draws on historical material from the modern past, it has significant implications for addressing the challenges in theory produced by such recent ‘transnational’ and ‘post national’ conflicts as the refugee crisis around the Mediterranean Sea. In particular, this essay explores the interest that transnational theory has paid to identity, affiliation, transgressive behaviours, questions of scale (from the personal to the global) and the problem of ‘the nation’ as a category of either differentiation or analysis.
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