Running in Circles: Circular Migration

Photo by JamesZ_Flickr

The Vancouver Sun recently wrote about people who are anchored at one end of the spectrum in the world of global migration and housing: affluent transnational migrants. These are people who ricochet around the world, briefly establishing themselves in several places in order to propel themselves upwards on the ladder of educational and financial success. The have grown in such numbers and have left such a large impact on the places they occupy — particular urban areas, immigration processes — that ethnographers have developed their own vocabulary to describe their lifestyle: “astronaut fathers,” “anchor babies,” “parachute kids,” “ethnoburbs” and “hyper-diverse cities.”

The Sun article looks specifically at the work of Clara Law, an Australian filmmaker who tackled the topic with her acclaimed 1996 movie “Floating Life”. She pokes fun at the people in the film, with their fragmented lives split between two islands, Hong Kong and Australia, and how it’s ultimately a sad tale. But the trend continues to grow and is particularly pronounced in Vancouver, which might explain why the Sun picked up the story nearly 20 years after it came out. Vancouver is famous for its tall glassy towers, booming Asian migration, and its housing market that has rates higher than the towers themselves.

Such a lifestyle is seen as glamorous, desirable, and one that continues to mold cities. On one hand, people are successfully setting themselves up for a better life, with one foot at home and another abroad, but on the other hand, those who reside in a city year round and have to compete with temporary residents for scarce housing, school spots, and deal with the consequences of money flowing in and out of the 21st century’s porous borders.

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