One Hundred of Two Hundred Reasons to Travel

Binational Urbanism
On the Road to Paradise

By Bernd Upmeyer

Just as bigamists tend to enter into a second marriage before their existing marriage is dissolved, binational urbanists, at some point in time, begin to live in a second city, in a second nation-state, without saying goodbye to their first city. Binational urbanism is thus a special form of transnationalism, a sociological phenomenon, and results from social interactions across the boundaries of nation-states, as well as a special case of multinational urbanism, in which people identify themselves with more than two cities in more than two nations and trigger social interaction between them. Thus, binational urbanism is to be understood in this book as an urban way of life in which a person maintains relationships to two different cities in two different nation-states at the same time. This type of person comes from all strata of society, including the working class, and the highly educated and cosmopolitan “creative class”. (1) Ideally, a binational urbanist continuously moves back and forth between two cities and lives in constant transit between two homes. Because of their continuous change of location binational urbanists seem to be living in a certain utopian state, characterized by a constant longing, or a constant homesickness, for the other city. “Home becomes a non-place and at the same time utopia. It is experienced most intensely when one is away and misses it; the actual ‘feeling home’ is homesickness.“ (2) Binational urbanists are essentially extreme commuters. The most famous extreme commuters are probably those travelling for work reasons, people that continuously move between their home and their workplace. For example, approximately thirty million (3) commuters live in Germany, meaning that almost every second German leads a life between two locations. But binational urbanism emerges also, or primarily, as a global phenomenon. Never before was the mobility of individuals higher than it is today. Today, people move between continents as they moved thirty years ago between cities. Binational urbanism has the potential to become one of the most interesting forms of life of the twenty-first century.

In recent years, the literature on migration and mobility has experienced enormous growth. In the 1990s especially, there was an abundance of work that dealt with various aspects of transnational “spaces of flows”. (4) (5) Many of these works were motivated by the desire to understand the causes and the consequences of increased global labour migration and the economic impact of remittances on the development of the home countries. (6) (7) On the other hand, numerous cultural researchers tended to explore the multiple identities and cultural forms that characterize diaspora experiences. (8) Many of these works either directly or indirectly reference ideas, already formulated by Festinger in the 1950s, about identity and identity contradictions. (9) In the present study, Festinger’s ideas could provide a particularly interesting possibility to investigate the seemingly irreconcilable and incompatible contradictions of city residents who live between, or in, two cities in two countries. Festinger argued, for example, that every decision leads inevitably to a cognitive dissonance. When we have to decide, for instance, between two positive alternatives such as “to go to the theatre” or “to go out for dinner”, we compare the two alternatives and find for both options cognitive elements that are convincing. (10) In social psychology, cognitive dissonance refers to an emotional state that is experienced as unpleasant, caused by the fact that a person has multiple cognitions – perceptions, thoughts, opinions, attitudes, desires, or intentions – which are incompatible with each other. (11) The initial condition for cognitive dissonance is the relevance of two elements to each other. (12) Irrelevance is present when two elements in the consciousness of the recipient have nothing to do with each other: „one cognitive element implies nothing at all concerning some other element”. (13) Festinger contrasts cognitive dissonance with cognitive consonance, which is the much less problematic and more desirable state of the two. It comes into play when the two elements are consistent with each other: “if you only look at one pair of elements, and when actually each of these elements results from the other, then the relationship between them is consonant.” (14)

… the entire text can be read in the book published by the Amsterdam-based publishing house trancityxvaliz.


1. Florida, Richard. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class. And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure and Everyday Life. Basic Books.
2. Schlink, Bernhard. (2000). Heimat ist Utopie. P. 32.
3. German Federal Department of Transportation, Federal Statistical Office. (2004-2007). Overall, there were 30 million commuters in Germany in 2004, of which approximately 360,000 weekend work commuters (students, self-employed not included). 1.5 million of them traveled more than 50 km to their workplace and are therefore considered long-distance commuters. The most common means of transportation was – at 66% – the car
4. Castles, Stephen, & Miller, Mark J. (2003). The age of migration: international population movements in the modern world. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 3rd edition.
5. Hannerz, Ulf. (1996). Transnational connections: culture, people, places. London; New York: Routledge.
6. Sassen, Saskia (1990). The Mobility of Labor and Capital: A Study in International Investment and Labor Flow. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
7. Chaudhuri, Jayasri. (1993). Migration and Remittances. London: Sage.
8. Robertson et al. (1994). Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of Home and Displacement. London: Routledge.
9. Festinger, Leon. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
10. Festinger, Leon. (1978). Theorie der kognitiven Dissonanz. Bern et al. P. 45.
11. Elliot, Aronson; Wilson, T. D.; Akert, R. M. (2008). Sozialpsychologie. Pearson Studium. 6th Edition. P. 163
12. Festinger, Leon. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. P.12.
13. Festinger, Leon. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. P.11 and 260
14. Festinger, Leon. (1978). Theorie der kognitiven Dissonanz. Bern et al. P. 27.

Title: Binational Urbanism – On the Road to Paradise
Author: Bernd Upmeyer
Date: August 2015
Type: Book
Publications: Binational Urbanism – On the Road to Paradise
Publisher: trancityxvaliz
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Pages: 224