While migration and return migration have a long history, our contemporary world's inexpensive communications and transportation systems have allowed transnationalism-the maintenance of current social lives in two or more societies-to flourish. In the past two decades the immigration of Africans to Spain has increased significantly, especially to urban areas such as Barcelona. At the same time as African immigrants adapt to the social environment of Spain they remain connected to their countries of origin through sending money to support relatives, visits to home, investing in land and housing, financing entrepreneurial ventures, and membership in hometown associations. African immigrants' participation in transnational activities varies depending on their level of integration in Spain, particularly their immigration status and occupation. The monetary resources available to West African immigrants in Barcelona's labor market and the legal status of those immigrants account for much of the variance in their cross-border activities.
This dissertation research project by a cultural anthropologist tests the hypothesis that immigrants with greater social and economic mobility in the host country will demonstrate a wider range and greater frequency of transnational activities. It examines immigrant integration in diverse types of cross-border activities in the case of Barcelona, Spain. To understand the relationship between integration and transnational activities, the researcher and Spanish collaborators will measure the level of incorporation in Spain's economy; the level of social adaptation; the types of cross-border activities African immigrants practice; and the frequency of engagement in these activities. The researchers will also collect life histories from a sub-sample of those with long-term residence in Spain in order to analyze changes in cross-border activities over the course of settlement. The broader impacts of this research, in addition to its contribution to the education of a young social scientist, is the new knowledge it will provide on how immigration policies and the social context of reception affect the integration of migrants into their host society and their subsequent transnational activities. This knowledge will be of interest to policy makers and service providers in Spain and other countries with high rates of transnational activities.