Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Towards a Field of Transnational Studies and a Sociological Transnationalism Research Program

42 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2004  

Sanjeev Khagram

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Peggy Levitt

Wellesley College

Date Written: August 2004


Each day, the news vividly depicts how social phenomena and dynamics cross, underly, transcend, alter and even transform borders and boundaries (and the structures, dynamics and actors ostensibly contained within them). The destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, one of the most potent symbols of western capitalism, by members of the also Al Qaeda terrorist network is perhaps the most powerful recent examples of the "transnational" nature of the world.

Ostensibly novel transnational phenomena and dynamics have clear historical analogues and antecedents. Indeed, human social formations, processes and activities have always been transborder and transboundary to a significant degree. Even contemporary nation-states and the nation-state system have been transnationally constituted and shaped over time and space in powerful ways.

These forms and processes of transnationality are the focus of a burgeoning yet fragmented body of scholarship across sub-fields of sociology and closely related social science disciplines. But scholars who produce this work generally treat their efforts as unconnected to each other or work on them isolation.

There is thus both tremendous value in and potential for explicating and further consolidating an emergent interdisciplinary field of Transnational Studies. In this paper, we identify five intellectual foundations for this field that offer a heuristically rich and compelling set of empirical, methodological, theoretical, philosophical, and practical ideas and options.

We further propose a specific Sociological Transnationalism research program within the field that prioritizes these intellectual foundations in a unique and generative way. We argue that this research program and the field more broadly is likely to cast new light on a range of core sociological and social scientific concerns including power, production, inequality, culture, identity, citizenship, organization and governance among many others.

Suggested Citation

Khagram, Sanjeev and Levitt, Peggy, Towards a Field of Transnational Studies and a Sociological Transnationalism Research Program (August 2004). Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations Working Paper No. 24. Available at SSRN: or

Sanjeev Khagram

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Peggy Levitt (Contact Author)

Wellesley College ( email )

106 Central St.
Wellesley, MA 02181
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views