According to the OED, definitions of the adjectival form of transnational cluster around the idea of extending beyond national frontiers or political boundaries into a social space that is multinational or global. The term has close connections to other concepts that “challenge the stable and fixed (hegemonic) concept of the national” (Higbee and Hwee Lim 2010, 10), such as multicultural or cosmopolitan. Like its cognates, transnational stems from movements that incline toward making nation states irrelevant, yet the etymology remains rooted in the geopolitical notion of “nation,” an indication of the difficulties faced by attempts to ignore prescribed geopolitical boundaries and the securities afforded by “imagined communities” (Anderson 1983). The term first appeared in English in 1921, entering the lexicon through economics and then seeping into other disciplines. Since then, its various derivatives (transnationality, transnationalism) have become so snarled up in political and scholarly discussion in a variety of fields that scholars have had to defend the value of continuing to use the term—if only as a conceptual form that implies an understanding of nation as “a thing contested, interrupted, and always shot through with contradiction” (Briggs, McCormick, and Way 2008, 627).

This essay may be found on page 187 of the printed volume.

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