Part of the Oxford Diasporas Programme, this project explores the kind of community and society that may emerge from diaspora formation and engagement in conflict and post conflict settings. It traces the emergence of diasporas formed as a result of flight from conflict in Sri Lanka, the Somali regions and Afghanistan, investigating their socio-economic make-up, cohort and time of arrival, immigration status, and class, ethnic, generational, gender and other social cleavages, all of which shape diasporas’ capacity for engagement.
Mass refugee movements induced by conflict have contributed to the transformation of global society, particularly since the end of the Cold War. Substantial new diasporas have consolidated from these movements: the new social formations appear to be enduring and have undertaken a variety of forms of transnational activity, shaping both the societies in which diasporas find themselves and their home communities and societies.
While the role of diaspora in development has stimulated much debate over the last decade or so, it is only relatively recently that attention has turned to the influence of diasporas in war-torn societies. There has been a general shift in perception from ascribing diasporas a negative influence in fomenting and supporting conflict (as ‘war mongers’ or ‘peace-wreckers’) to the more positive view that they can assist with relief, peace-building, recovery and post-conflict reconstruction (as ‘peace-makers’ or ‘peace-builders’). As is often the case, the reality is between the two, and the balance of forms of engagement shifts over time and according to circumstances.
The Leverhulme Trust
The Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), Colombo, Sri Lanka
Afghanistan, Canada, India, Somalia, Sri Lanka, UK
Having established the contours of diaspora formation in the three settings, the project traces three spheres of diaspora engagement, which range from the private to the increasingly public:
There is of course interplay among these different spheres, so that for example what happens in the imagined community sphere may shape what is possible in the community and household spheres. There are also tensions among the different spheres – diaspora members may find themselves pulled among obligations to their own family in the host country, to their own community in the host country, to those in the wider diaspora, to those left in the conflict-ridden homeland, and to the wider political struggle in the homeland. Their capacity to meet these different calls varies according to their resources and social position, and may shift over time.
Theoretically, the research touches on the relationship between structure and agency; between force and choice in migration; between the local and global, the translocal and the transnational; and between material life and identity politics. It also contributes to debates on livelihoods in conflict, on networks, social capital and class, on social transformation, and on how power shifts and travels through local and global dispensations.
The project draws principally on data gathered over the last 15 years on the cases selected, supplemented by fresh data-gathering among Sri Lankans, Somalis and Afghans in various diaspora locations (principally the UK, Canada and continental Europe). Research methods include interviews among extended families and communities in the diaspora to capture the forms and range of transnational linkages, and interpretation of statistical and other quantitative data. Diaspora communities have been profiled to map their socio-economic conditions, experiences of conflict, linkages with home communities, and perceptions and engagement with home country in the past and currently.
Research findings in the three settings point to the kinds of community and society that emerge from diaspora formation and engagement in conflict and post-conflict settings.
Van Hear, N. (2014) 'Refugees, Diasporas, and Transnationalism', in Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E., Loescher, G., Long, K. and Sigona, N. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 176-187
The London-Hargeysa connection: Diaspora engagement in Somaliland
Other Publications | Giulia Liberatore & Kate Stanworth | 2014
The main output will be a book, currently in progress. A full list of unpublished outputs is available at http://www.migration.ox.ac.uk/odp/war-torn-societies-publications.shtml
Project findings will help inform wider understanding of the kind of community and society that may emerge from diaspora formation and engagement in conflict and post-conflict settings.