In popular debate, and in the practice of public policy, transnational ties have been thought to affect local experiences of citizenship. According to some, transnational activity represents an impediment to the formation of national and local identifications; a danger to citizenship and integration in countries of settlement (Snel et al, 2006). Smith and Bakker (2008, p.9) argue not only that this discourse permeates the literature on transnational migration but that it “has too often been deployed at a theoretical, if not polemical, level, detached from empirical research into the political practices of transnational migrants”.
In the context of the on-going 'War on Terror' and the current political conflict in the Middle East, concerns about the transnational practices of British Muslims have received significant media attention. Such concerns have fed into a range of recent policy proposals with respect to the treatment of British subjects who engage in transnational activities their Government does not support. These include the power to revoke citizenship rights altogether in some cases, as well as deportation, detention, and increased surveillance etc.
This suspicion among Government agencies towards the transnational activity of Muslim populations has brought the constitutionally protected activities of a large number of people under increasing scrutiny (Kundnani, 2014). The ‘internal border’ has been magnified, producing questions of loyalty and legitimacy to distinguish suspect citizens from putatively natural ones (Zamindar, 2007).
Although a connection between local citizenship and transnational activity is often taken for granted in the fields of politics and policy-making, therefore, empirical research is still scarce. More research is needed to understand how transnational activity is situated in social, cultural and political milieu.
How do the different histories of Bangladeshi Muslim settlement in London and Birmingham, as well as their different population profiles and the different socio-political environments of these cities, influence experiences of citizenship?
How do local political identities in these cities inform processes of transnational political and religious engagement?
Does transnational engagement influence the creation of local political space?
What can this tell us about the relationship between transnational activity and local belonging?
How can comparing experience across different urban centres feed into the activity of Government agencies, and connect to gaps in civil society service provision, in order to strengthen citizenship experiences among the Bangladeshi population in these field sites?
In each location, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with Bengali individuals in the form of same-sex parent/child dyads. The use of same-sex parent-child dyads helps to draw out generational dimensions and to focus the issues of continuity and change over time.
In addition, oral history interviews and civil society interviews were conducted in each location, producing a total of approximately 75 interviews (with approximately 120 people), complemented by ethnographic observation with the Bangladeshi community in all the field sites.