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Challenges for Future Policy-Oriented Research

The breadth of approaches and foci on actors and types of transnationalism provide insight into some broad patterns. The joint reading of the current literature on transnationalism in Europe points to two main observations. First, transnationalism is costly. Economic transnationalism requires financial capital, for instance, for remittances or investments. Sociocultural transnationalism requires social capital in the form of available contacts, but also money to buy phone cards or airplane tickets. Political transnationalism requires political capital in the form of skills, knowledge, and contacts to work politics in the homeland. Put differently, immigrants who are low on economic, sociocultural, or political resources are less likely to engage in transnationalism. How this relates to integration depends on the type and form of transnationalism. For instance, it is relatively inexpensive for immigrants to respond to country of residence transnational activities since this is paid by homeland based actors (such as political parties or religious organizations). But only those who earn enough to send money to relatives or invest in property—and thus who are economically integrated in the host country—can afford to engage in homeland-directed economic transnational activities. Second, many studies show that what happens “there” has consequences for what happens “here”. Feelings of exclusion in the homeland may foster integration in the host county, while factual exclusion from politics may trigger more radical forms of transnationalism to change the situation in the homeland. Either way, homeland developments are decisive for the form and direction of transnationalism. It is therefore surprising that it is so often left out of typologies and reviews on transnationalism (but see Pitkänen et al. 2012).

The current state of the art suggests two avenues for future policy-relevant research. First, comparable data on transnational activities should be collected in European Union member states. National governments have thus far tended to take transnationalism into account reactively, when they believe transnationalism is undermining integration. However, many European countries do monitor citizens' social, cultural, and economic positions and, in one way or another, examine their ethnic minorities' integration. While issues related to the country of origin are prominent in public and political debates, they are poorly reflected in official statistics. Hence, our knowledge about the transnational orientations of individual migrants remains limited.

The second issue that merits scholarly attention is the role of gender and sexuality in transnationalism. Despite scholarly agreement that gender matters in all social, economic, and political spheres, little research has addressed gender outside of typically “female” spaces, like the household (Mahler 1998; but see Sinatti 2013). Existing scholarship suggests that involvement in social networks and transnationalism takes very different forms for migrant men and women (De Tona and Lentin 2011; Hagan 1998; Itzigsohn and Giorguli-Saucedo 2005, 896). The general perception is that migrant men play a role in public, formal, and institutionalized domestic networks of migrant organizations and in the transnational ties these maintain with homeland-based actors. In contrast, women seem to play an important role in informal networks consisting of friends and family. In other words, migrant women do not succeed in getting out of the transnational “private sphere” (Mügge 2013b). Thus, gendering transnationalism raises new questions about who is involved in what role and in what type of transnationalism. Finally, a sexuality prism opens routes to study the transnational experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer (LGBTQ) groups. This would be particularly welcome, given the salience of inclusion and exclusion of these groups across the globe and the prominence of LGBTQ issues on the European policy agenda. Promising topics for study are, for instance, same-sex marriage migration, adoption of children by same-sex couples, and transnational political activism by migrants who escaped oppression on the basis of their sexual preference.

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