chapter  3
Tracing transnationalities through commodity culture
A case study of British-South Asian fashion
ByClaire Dwyer
Pages 18

This chapter uses a case study of the transnationalities associated with British-Asian fashion to broaden the conceptualization of transnational space.1 The Introduction to this volume highlighted some of our concerns about continuing to define transnationalism as a social formation, identity or cultural process that is only experienced by immigrant groups (Portes 1997: 16; Portes et al. 1999: 219). While we are sensitive to concerns about the lack of specificity or uncritical celebration in the ever-broadening conceptualization of transnational identities, interactions or experiences (Mitchell 1997), our work has sought to open up an alternative approach to thinking about transnational spaces. This approach is indebted in the first instance to the anthropologist Roger Rouse (1991), whose classic essay is reprinted in Chapter 1. Rouse’s ethnography of Aguilillan ‘transmigrants’ whose lives are lived not simply between two locations in Mexico and the US, but instead within ‘transnational circuits’ of people, money, goods and information, was one of the earliest exemplars of transnational geographies. Most interesting, for us, was Rouse’s suggestion that it was not only the Aguilillan transmigrants that were affected by these processes. As he suggests: ‘the comfortable modern imagery of nation-states and national languages, of coherent communities and consistent subjectivities . . . no longer seems adequate . . . [D]uring the last 20 years we have all moved irrevocably into a new kind of social space’ (Rouse 1991: 8, emphasis added).