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Reframing immigrant families as transnationals, this article highlights transnational families’ ways of knowing. This study is based on a three year, multi-sited critical ethnographic set of case studies of four families in the US and Mexico. Transnational families in this study demonstrated Nepantlera knowing, or liminal, bridge-building knowing which continually endures remarkable transformations through oftentimes ambiguous and conflicting circumstances. Families experienced the world as liminal knowers, or people who lived the ambiguities of being in-between, and as shapeshifters who navigated that in-betweenness. They also knew the world through their bridge-building efforts, and through the risks, pain, and satisfaction of bridge-building work. Families managed multiple tensions of knowing in such an in-between space, and they were path-breaking in the ways they reached out to disparate groups by bridging differences. This article includes recommendations for educators and researchers toward creating a more democratic and equitable society by drawing from Nepantlera knowing.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Ethnography and Education on 20 May 2104, available online: