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The Limits of Transnationalism

Transnationalism means many things to many people, from crossing physical borders to crossing intellectual ones. The Limits of Transnationalism reassesses the overly optimistic narratives often associated with this malleable term, revealing both the metaphorical and very real obstacles for transnational mobility. Nancy L. Green begins her wide-ranging examination with the story of Frank Gueydan, an early twentieth-century American convicted of manufacturing fake wine in France who complained bitterly that he was neither able to get a fair trial there nor to enlist the help of US officials. Gueydan’s predicament opens the door for a series of inquiries into the past twenty-five years of transnational scholarship, raising questions about the weaknesses of global networks and the slippery nature of citizenship ties for those who try to live transnational lives. The Limits of Transnationalism serves as a cogent reminder of this topic’s complexity, calling for greater attention to be paid to the many bumps in the road.

208 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2019

History: American History, European History

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations

Sociology: General Sociology


“As the legal contours of citizenship are being reshaped by new forms of globalized trade and multi-national families, Green offers a fresh perspective on the history of crossing borders. Her dry wit and shrewd eye for paradox enliven her account of how men and women have defined the boundaries of belonging as they navigated the shifting legal landscapes of the United States and Europe, and how scholarly interpretations of what they were up to have fluctuated over the years. An important addition to our understanding of the protections of citizenship and its limitations.”

Linda K. Kerber, University of Iowa

“Green explores the complex stories of how transnational lives were lived, while also making an important historiographical intervention: living between two nation states and across their borders can frustrate migrants’ life plans and pose social, legal, and economic challenges as well as offer them rich opportunities for change and creativity.”

Donna Gabaccia, University of Toronto

“With this learned, witty, and elegantly written volume, Green has written a book that illuminates the limits of transnationalism and yet shows how much is to be learned when migration researchers extend their lens across state boundaries. A work that scholars and students will read with pleasure and profit.”

Roger Waldinger, University of California, Los Angeles

“Recommended. . . Green does a salutary job of arguing the case.”


"The Limits of Transnationalism is a provocative, timely, and necessary book. Green begins the conversation that will, this reviewer anticipates, carry on through the field for many years."

Caroline Waldron | Journal of American Ethnic History

"Like other sympathetic critics of transnational theorizing, Nancy Green does not dispute the reality of the phenomenon. Her central message is that while transnationalism exists, it is far more difficult to live a genuinely transnationalism life than Glick-Schiller, Alejandro Portes, Steven Vertovec, and others presumed. There are, as her title makes clear, “limits” to transnationalism. . . . [An]invaluable book-length diagnostic [assessment] of transnationalism."

Journal of Modern History

Table of Contents

Introduction: The “Transnational Moment” and Its Limits
Chapter 1: Fake Wine and Future Cadaver: The Trials of an American in France
Chapter 2: Old History, New Historiography
Chapter 3: Expatriation: The Obverse of Transnationalism
Chapter 4: On States and Exit: Letting People Go . . . with Gritted Teeth
Chapter 5: “Au secours”: Individuals Betwixt and Between
Conclusion: It’s Not as Easy as It Looks

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