Week 1 – Theory

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that since migration is such a complex issue, there cannot, or at least in my view, there ought not to be a general theory of migration. As much as migration is as old as human history, theoretical currents on this topic shift, change, and emerge at different times through different lenses. I think Faist denoted that at the start of the article when he noted that the “term ‘theory’ here relates to theoretically guided empirical propositions, ranging from thick descriptions aiming at particular events and sites, on one end of the continuum, to grand general theory at the other end. Neither is this an effort to develop an integrated theory of diaspora and transnationalism.”

Since human mobility as does the perception of it depending on the geography where one lives, as well as different conceptions of what migration should and ought to look at, the view of transnationalism and diaspora bring forth interesting debates.

The word ‘diaspora’ has, for a long time meant to describe the struggles and forced migrations of Jewish, and, later Armenian communities. This has changed during the last decade or two with the perceived increased in international migrations, and the coining of the ‘transnational’, which a number of people have intertwined with diaspora. The reason I say perceived, is that in actual terms, the percentage of people migrating, has actually dropped somewhat since the last great migration(s) that took place between 1849 – 1914, where almost 6% of the globe was on the move, opposed to about 3.5-4% today. Human mobility has not changed as much as people’s, societies, and governments’ view have.

This is where diaspora and transnationalism come together. Since diaspora brings forth images of dispersion, yet at the same time keeping a community as one even if geographically dispersed; transnationalism brings together communities that have a present geographic entity, the contemporary nation-state that brings everyone together as one.

The idea behind transnationalism is the extension of the nation-state across its geographic borders. Although the nation-state is not that old, it has taken over the way people view things such as citizenship, political rights, etc. However, people residing outside their state of citizenship have not always been looked at in a positive manner. It was about 20 years ago that many countries saw the benefits that remittances were having on sending countries such as Mexico, India, Peru, etc. This economic impact was one of the drivers that led many nation-states to shift their perceptions from ‘traitors’ to the nation to ‘heroes’ sacrificing for the nation. This qualitative shift became one of the drivers, which led to interest in the rise of ‘transnational communities’, many of which already existed for many years under a dark cloud as people that abandoned their homeland.

This shift in perception brought forth a number of changes in how populations were viewed. Transnational communities through the prisms of networks, imagined communities, de-territorialized yet connected became an important aspect of academic inquiry. This shift brought many communities ‘out from the cold’, which also played a vital role in accessing political rights such as voting in national elections, as well as political recognition that these communities also wielded a strong political voice, while residing in other countries. Transnationalism has also led to an increase in dual citizenship, social and economic networks working across boundaries for the betterment of the localities people hail from. All this has been accelerated through the Internet, and cheaper and faster transportation.

Diaspora on the other hand is one of the original terms of displaced communities and populations usually linked through ethnic and/or religious ties. As the author mentions, rightly I think, is that diaspora as an analytical concept can be difficult to research without the political component.

Having said this, what do you guys think of the reading?

24 thoughts on “Week 1 – Theory”

  1. As a person, who was born and grew up in Russia, i have a lot of Armenian and jewish friends, and the word “diaspora” was used a lot in their houses,i guess i never really thought about meaning of this word. Whenever in the goup of friends there were more then 2-3 armenian people, they simply joked, that armenian diaspora is stronger today.
    I found its really interesting, how with ages we can change the meaning of the word, completely not basing on the background this word may have.
    I mean as author said before, word “diaspora” meant to describe the struggles and forced migrations of Jewish, and, later Armenian communities, and for now if you say this word in context on the russian or armenian territory it would mostly mean “group of people with the same views”.
    i would agree with author by saying that make a research on this word is kind of difficult without a political component.

  2. After reading the text two times, i guess, now i have kind of an idea what is hidden behind the two dancepartners “diaspora” and “transnationalism”. Since English is not my mother-tongue I hope I ll be able to make my points and you guys will understand what I am aiming with my comments.
    As an introduction into a new topic, I liked the way the author gives a first insight into the concepts and meaning of these two words. Though, i am reassured that there is no straight definition of both because especially “transnationalism” is such a wide and open description of what it could mean. Of course, over time and changes in the world the meaning of concepts are also shifting. I am really interested in the influence, importance and need of the “digital revolution”-Internet, social networks, media-representation etc., for people living during or after a migration-process.
    At this moment I want to point out what caught my attention the most. Faist is quoting Koinova [p.25:11] and her question, if diasporas can be called “agents of democratization” when it comes to domestic politics. After last Saturdays referendum in Turkey regarding various changes in the constitution, weather the final results were manipulated or not (…), the barely majority voted for evet/jes.
    That leads Turkey into an autocratic direction where the opposition is more or less just a legal formality and there is no criticism accepted. Since the military coup attempt last year, all that already happened and critical journalism is pretty much seen as an act of supporting terroristic groups. Why am I talking about that? 63,1% of the Turkish population living in Germany, who are entitled to vote, voted for the change of the constitution and more power for President Erdogan. I was really stunned about these numbers and I am trying to understand why so many people gave their votes pro Erdogan. When you have a look at the regions in Turkey where the people voted for jes, you will see that mainly the rural areas are standing behind him. The cities in general and particulary the academic class on the other hand, mainly voted for no. Now I am wondering if the numbers, of the in germany living population are a result of the fact, that most families who came in the 1960s as guest-worker to the former German Democratic Republic, were also mainly from east Anatolia, which is rural turkey.
    Of course I don’t know if there is a connection but as I thought it suits well into this weeks text I wanted to chare my thoughts.

    1. I like your point about Turkey, Paul! Somewhere at the beginning the text mentioned that with assimilation there will be no diaspora and that made me think.

      I assume that most of the Turkish people abroad who voted “yes” in the referendum have been in Germany (or other countries) for many years. In a way one can assume that some sort of assimilation must have taken place and yet most of them seem to have stayed true to their (political) believes which they may have already formed even before they came to Germany.

      Being an imigrant from Estern Europe and having lived here for over a decade, I think that no matter how hard a person tries to assimilate to a new culture, there will always be a part of them that goes back to their original roots be it in the form of world views or behavior. That said, I think the referendum in Turkey might be a good example for challlenging the belief that assimilation kills diaspora. Can there even be such a thing as absolute assimilation to beging with?

    2. The German-Turkish left-WIng Journalist Kerem Schamberger wrote about this:

      “Ungefähr 3,5 Millionen Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund aus der Türkei leben insgesamt in Deutschland.
      Von diesen sind Wahlberechtigt: 1,4 Mio.
      Die letztendliche Wahlbeteiligung in Deutschland lag bei ca. 46%, das entspricht ungefähr 660.000 Stimmen. Davon haben
      63,1% mit Ja gestimmt.
      Das heißt es gibt nur 415.000 Erdogan-Wähler.
      Das macht bei Weitem keine Mehrheit, sondern entspricht etwas mehr als 10% der türkeistämmigen Bevölkerung in Deutschland.
      Punkt.”
      sorry for posting it in German.

  3. I think the text served as a great introduction to our topic of migrations to and from Latin America by discussing “diaspora” and “transnationalism” as two possible lenses through which one might approach the wide-ranging field of migration, as well as possible issues regarding migration.

    As someone who has never engaged in migration studies before, I found it really helpful to be given a better understanding of what the terms “diaspora” (“religious or national groups living outside an (imagined) homeland”) and “transnationalism” (“migrants’ durable ties across countries”) often refer to. I also found it interesting to learn more about the shift in meaning of the term diaspora over time, and to take a closer look at how different scholars have approached the concepts of “diaspora” and “transnationalism”.

    As some other students have discussed the recent referendum in Turkey and the question if and how it can be related to the framework of “diaspora”, I am wondering if what Faist says on page eleven about how the concept of “diaspora” has been “politicised” and often been used by “nationalist governments” or “in the service of an external homeland” to “pursue agendas of nation-state building or controlling populations abroad”, or to “mobilise support for a group identity or some political project” can also be applied to the Turkish voters in Germany.

  4. Two questions came to my mind when I read the text by Thomas Faist. First of all, Faist bases his analysis and observations on a global trend that supports the view that migration and development are closely linked to one another. Faist talks about a “new enthusiasm” towards migration, and in the conclusion on page 37 goes as far as to state that “Contemporary international borders are much more akin to sieves than to medieval brick walls”. Needless to say, the opinion of state actors and non state actors regarding migration in some developed countries has drastically changed from the “enthusiasm” that Faist describes since 2009. My first question is:

    How valid do Faist’s observations about Market, State and Non State Actors cooperations to enhance migration remain in the light of the recent policies set in motion by Donald Trump to not only restrict migration but also to sanction U.S. investment in Mexico and alter remittance policies?

    My second question regards the part where Faist describes the different kinds of knowledge transfer tendencies in migration regarding the terms brain drain, brain gain, global brain chain and brain waste (p.32 and p.33). The second question is:

    Is there any empirical data regarding which one of these types of knowledge transfer tends to takes place in the case of Latin American migration to Global North countries?

  5. Before reading the text I never really thought about the differences between the concepts of transnationalism and diaspora, I never actually came to the point to see the need of a clear differentiation. As I never actively enganged in migration studies, “diaspora” and “transnationalism” were just two words I used the way that felt natural to me, especially “diaspora”.
    Due to the text by now I have the impression to at least have a broad overview over the two concepts, their similarities and differences.
    The idea of applying the text to the current Turkish referendum and the Turkish population living in Germany seems very interesting.

  6. I have always thought of Transnationalism in the sense of above-state actors and organizations, and of Diaspora as an ethnic group connected by a (sometimes imaginary) shared history, this is how these term have been introduced to me and I believe to most people. I still found this week’s reading to be very insightful because it was able to put thoughts I have had about transnational linkage into words.

    For example the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, owns several online newspapers that operate in major cities worldwide. When one reads the articles posted there it isn’t hard to notice a pattern: he tries to invoke insecurity and instill fear in Israelis living abroad. Like many other populist leaders he wants to convey a feeling that it isn’t safe outside of “their” countries and only they can protect “their” people.

    I agree with some of the past comments that it is difficult to suggest a theory for migration as each case should be inspected individually due to endless varying reasons for migration.

  7. Diaspora (religious/national communities living outside their homeland) and transnationalism (migrants’ ties across countries, transnational networks/organizations) are two concepts that serve to study the consequences of international migration.
    In my opinion the text was (to some extent) overwhelming but a good introduction to the topic. If you have never dealt with a specific field, it is always important to be given some definitions of key terms, be it to clarify or to become aware of the complexity.
    I like Faist’s metaphor of “dance partners” to explain and analyze the difficult relationship between diaspora and transnationalism. Like dance partners in real life, the definitions of these terms sometimes overlap, are close together, or far apart, and they interact with each other.
    I am particularly interested in the process of assimilation: In the section “the state of the debates” we learn that the concept of transnationalism has encouraged debates on the integration of immigrants. “Are immigrants’ transnational orientations at odds with their social integration in societies of settlement? Or is there complementarity?” This part immediately reminded me of Randolph Bourne’s “trans-national America” (1916) that I read in an American cultural history class. He argued that the idea of the melting pot in the U.S. has failed, thus opposing the idea that immigrants in the U.S. are assimilating into American culture because people cannot help but hold tightly to the culture of their native country. I think there are some racist underpinnings, but maybe it gives some input on what people discussed earlier (referendum in Turkey, assimilation).

  8. The text confirmed some of my assumptions on the terms of “diaspora” and “transnationalism” but it also gave me a better idea of their distinction, which was very helpful.
    Unfortunately the text evoked no deeper feelings in me, that I could share here.

    I also think the comparison with the turkish referendum is interesting. However I want to complement that it wasn’t 63,1% of the Turkish population living in Germany, who are entitled to vote, that wanted the change in the constitution, but 63,1% of the actually voting population in Germany. Around 50% of the entitled population didn’t vote at all. But anyways I liked comparison.

  9. The first time I encountered the term “diaspora” was when I was living in the Balkans for a few years. It seemed like an omnipresent concept to me and was the subject of many conversations. So with this text I was happy to find a scientific approach that I could relate to a real life experience.

    While I found the amount of distinctions and deffinitions rather confusing, coming from the field of political science, I was very interested in the way this text is, in my opinion, a good example of linguistic framing. Fortunately, some background knowledge in international relations helped to keep diaspora and transnationalism apart a bit more clearly.

    I believe the text mentioned a potential debate on whether to accept or reject the term diaspora . Thinking about it I noticed that whover “wins” this debate influences the way we see and understand diaspora. Same goes for the scientists and researchers who suggest the given definitions and distinctions. As time passes the definitions change and so does our understanding of the word. “Who is responsible for all that?” may be an interesting question. At the end of the day it seems, the power to define terms like “diaspora” for the public lies in the hands of a particular group of people. I think influencing the meaning and our perception of words is a powerful tool, particularly from a political science perspective and it might be a starting point for a critical approach to what diaspora actually means and how the word is used. Just some thoughts on my part.

    I hope this makes sense in one way or the other.

  10. For me too, the text expanded my understanding of “diaspora” and “transnationalism”.
    Before I read the text, the first thing that came to my mind when hearing “diaspora” was the dispersed Jewish community. I´ve never really put diaspora in another context because I saw “diaspora” as a result of centuries of prosecution and the inexistence of a Jewish state until 1948.

    Although he states that ” ‘theory’ here relates to theoretically guided empirical propositions” adapting “diaspora” to other religious and ethnic groups as a theory to fund empirical studies doesn´t give enough credit to all the different motives etc. causing someone to migrate. The Turkish labor workers came voluntarily to the German Federal Republic in the 1960s, so I think it´s hard to put them under the same caption as peolpe who had to flee but that´s only my opinion.

    Before reading the text, I wasn´t quite aware of the concept of “transnationalism”. The examples that my fellow students made are quite interesting; demonstrating the strong ties between states and their nationals living in other countries. But I think it´s hard to pinpoint the influence of both the “motherland” and assimilation. Especially concerning the Turkey referendum. Today most of the people with Turkish roots are born in Germany. Their views are different than those of the 1st generation immigrants, so I´m not really surprised by the voting turnout.

  11. (I apologize in advance for the lack of relation with Latin America – I have not read enough to form developed ideas about migration to and from Latin America at this juncture and this article was more about migration in general – but I will keep reading!)

    This article has effectively discussed about the different definitions of diaspora and transnationalism, how it has evolved and also how they have been researched on over the years. The discussion about diaspora in the article made me question the politics behind how groups of people are labeled. Coming from a nation of migrants (Singapore), i think this is very evident in my country. The 4 main recognized ethnicities in Singapore are the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian Singaporeans. All other ethnicities/backgrounds are largely classified as “diasporas” e.g. the Filipino diaspora (largely comprising of healthcare assistants and domestic helpers) or the Bangladeshi diaspora (largely comprising of construction workers). There are no native Singaporeans in Singapore – all family trees can be traced back to China, India etc. Going by the definition of diaspora in this article, this means that Singapore is really just an amalgamation of different diasporas that have been established for different amounts of time. My question is, how did the government decide on naming the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian diasporas as “national races” and not the others? If the number of immigrants from e.g. the Philippines continue to increase over the next few years, will they receive more official state recognition for their contributions to Singapore? Perhaps this is why Singapore had recently took significant steps to reduce the number of migrants coming to Singapore – so that they can avoid such potential bottom up pressure and having to answer these difficult questions in future.

    To bring the discussion back to the context of Latin America, perhaps Trump shares similar sentiments with the Singaporean government when he advocates for his aggressive immigration policies. Labeling a group as “diaspora” eludes this idea of outside versus inside, and after reading this article, such labeling seems like a platform to display power relations between various groups of people in a country.

  12. I agree with you, Sarah, when you argue that it is inaccurate to subsume a plethora of different communities, each of which have their own “history of migration“ under the term “diaspora“. Obviously, the causes of migration do vary significantly between different national, ethnic and religious groups and it goes without saying that the motives behind migration do shape the way in which the diasporic group interacts with the community of destination and the experiences it has in the new environment. It is, of course, necessary to consider all the varying reasons for migration so as to really comprehend the idiosyncracies of a specific diaspora. One should definitely not intermingle the history of the Jewish diaspora with the experiences of turkish labour migrants.
    Yet, I think that the concept of diaspora as it is developed by Faist serves as a useful introduction to the topic. I especially liked the picture of a “triangular social structure“ (p. 14) which is created between the country of origin, the country of destination and the migrants. I believe that this concept of a triangular structur is able to capture your criticism. Based on the text, I understand “diaspora“ as a theoretical tool which offers certain implications on the one hand, but which, on the other hand, is fluid enough to incorporate different migratory realities as the concept navigates between and is shaped by the three dimension of the triangular. So different diasporic groups may of course face different hurdles and experience their country of destination differently, but I don’t feel that this is neglected by the theoretical concept of diaspora. I rather understand in a quite general sense and I believe that the point of triangular navigation holds true for each diasporic group.

  13. Faist engaged with the terms “Diaspora” and “Transnationalism” and their political relevance and significance in the text, clarifying the differences between the two terms and their backgrounds. However, in the process, I believe that it was revealed, perhaps unintentionally, that with the changes in the meaning of the term “diaspora” over time and the varying usage of the term by different actors for political and social purposes (e.g. governments using it to pursue their individual political agendas in nation building), there is no single concept or theory that can be used to explain or understand migration, since the global understanding of migration is constantly changing and developing over time. On this point, I agree with what Prof and several other students have mentioned above.

    Personally, while I have always understood the two terms apart from each other, I recognise the need to understand the background of the terms and their significance with regard to migration after reading the text, such as the political significance of the term ‘diaspora’, which has often been used to build a group or national identity and impose some form of political control over groups of migrants (p.11). With the connotation each term holds, and the impact of these connotations on our usage of these terms and our understanding on migration, it is important to discuss these terms in order to understand migration as a whole. This is especially so when one considers that the notion of the terms adopted, especially the term ‘diaspora’, will have an impact on the responsibilities and extent of political control that a state could have over particular groups of migrants and the societal position of such groups, although that could be further discussed as well. Faist touched on this, as he noted that “the older and newer usages of diaspora are not always compatible” (p.13), such as newer discussions on diaspora going beyond cultural distinctiveness to focus on cultural innovation as well.

    Relating to Weinar’s work that Faist discussed (pp.18-19), I feel that the constantly changing structure of diasporas (i.e. creation and regrouping of diasporas) makes it difficult to provide an exact definition of what constitutes a diaspora and this poses a policy problem especially for migration related policies, where it is left to the policymakers to determine how the categorisation works. As a result, this means that the two terms, more specifically ‘diaspora’, will always have a political angle to them.

    There is one part of the reading, which I did not quite understand and perhaps someone with more knowledge in this area could clarify. Faist mentioned about projects of ‘stateless diasporas’ that are based on a collective identity (p.21), which I had never heard of before. This appears to be a rather strange concept to me, as my understanding of diasporas requires a connection between a community, a country of origin and at least one host country. Without the existence of a fixed host country, or country of origin to refer to, could there even be the existence of a diaspora?

    1. HI Joanne,
      Just a quick reply to your question, a stateless diaspora for example could be Kurdish people who live in Syria, Iraq, and part of Turkey.

  14. Instead of summarizing the text, I would like to pose a few questions that ocurred to me while reading it.
    On page 12, the distinction between the older definition of diáspora, which includes forced dispersión, is distinguished from the newer, which implies any kind of dispersión. Considering that migration is a phenomenon as old as humanity itself, I ask myself what migration is truly not forced. This question is, in times of the so-called „refugee crisis“, of high significance. The political right wing in Germany uses the condescending term “Wirtschaftsflüchtling“ to refer to people who „only“ flee from their countries of origin because of ecnomical reasons. This is used to catalogue and distinguish between the refugees that, in their eyes, have a right to stay (those fleeing from war or political prosecution) and those who don’t.

    Without wanting to neglect or play down the violence and suffering the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas had to endure, it is necessary to mention that mass migrations often ocurr because of socio-economical and political reasons both.

    I, as an anthropology student, asked myself, how the actors define themselves. Because transnationalism and diaspora can be definded, but the definitions vary, it would be interesting to see how migrants see themselves, whether as part of a diaspora, a transnational community, or maybe even both. The Kurdish community in Germany, where I have the luck to know some people, could be defined as a „stateless diaspora“ (p. 21). However, transnational ties exist, even strongly, between their European countries of residence and also their communities in Kurdistan, which is divided between Turkey, Syria, Irak and Iran. Kissau and Hunger define them as a „virtual diaspora“, which is interesting, because of personal experience I know of the strong ties that exist, mostly via Internet, between Kurdish political organizations, an which communicate via Internet.
    With an intersectional approach, it would also be interesting to analyze the depictions of migrant communities in their countries of residence. Schiller (p.23) exposes the contradiction of the depiction of migrants „both as criminals and as saviours in the form of agents who develop their regions of origin“. I agree in a sense, however, because I believe that the negative depiction depends strongly on the region of origin and of residence both. White migrants, or migrants of countries in the global North, don’t have to put up with racial stereotypes as much as migrants from the global South.

    Finally, I have a few questions about the course:
    You mentioned that coursework can be done in both Spanish and English. Does that mean we can comment in Spanish, or do you refer to the essays. Also, are there any formal criteria for the comments?

    1. Hi Andres, the essay can be in English or Spanish. The blog however is best if we keep it English as the lingua franca since some do not speak Spanish nor German.

  15. Hey everybody,
    so many interesting points so far! First of all I think that in general the text offers a quite usefull overview of the concepts diaspora and transnationalism and shows in which aspects they overlapp or differenciate. Especially the understanding of diaspora as a specific and broad transnational phenomenon or in other words, the understanding that transnationalism encompasses diaspora (with its own emphasises on different aspects like identity, a more political note etc.), but considering that not every transnational community represents a diaspora as well, seemed conclusive to me.
    Further I think that the text gives an interesting and illustrating view on investigations of different scholars in fields like migration, diaspora studies, transnational studies etc., which offers a first impression of important questions about the phenomena of mobility and migration as well as shows that these are interconected to other aspects like class, gender, race etc.

    I would like to continue with some aspects of the text that seemed very interesting to me and that remained in my mind the most. Quite important, in my opinion, was the differenciation made between diaspora and transnationalism as well as globalisation and in this context the fact, that diaspora and transnationalism do not only presume a global, universal and therefore generalising way of perception or understanding life and application of rules or rights etc., in contrast to Globalisation sometimes. As I`ve understood, Globalisation Theories or World System Theories focus for exampel on a universal application of the same rights, like the human rights or democracy. Of course, this approach has positive sides, but I also think that problematic within this approach is that there can not be expected one universal perception of things, life and thus rules, rights or moral behaviour. Therefore I join the opinion that it is important to focus on both: global perspectives and particular, regional-specific perspectives, what applies to both concepts, diaspora and transnationalism: They consider and respect the Global and the Local- for that the so called `Glokalisation` or `Glocal` as a mixed concept seems convient and inevitable in our contemporary time, with its huge variety of `migrant categories`, transnational or global actors and rapid flows of persons, ideas, goods as well as material and mental capital.
    Thinking of Globalisaion should not exclusively consist in aspiring a Univeralisation of Ideas, Political Systems, Rights etc., but a negotiation in national and transnational as well as international or global areas.
    In that context I also want to mention the methodological nationalism, that represents in some sciences the basic category of analisis and whose concept acts on the assumption that the nationalstate is a `natural` political and social unit. In the context of migration, transnationalism and diaspora it is necesary to focus not only on the nationalstate. Of course, it is the dominant category but the suggesstion to think about communities, `groups` or `gruppism` in the context of migrants, diaspora and transnationalism seems convinient to me- also because there are other types of spaces beside territorial spaces, like social or virutal spaces, as the text has shown, transnational or diasporic actors do act in.

    Finalizing my comment, I`d like to share a idea inspired by Pauls comment on the voting of turkish people in Germany pro Erdogan. I don`t have a answer for the question and it is also not directly about Turkey, but made me think of the following:
    Migration to another country and experiences there, living between two countries or in a diaspora etc., shape, influence and mabey even transform ways of thinking, behaviour, beliefs, traditions or even the view on the homeland. Sometimes experiences in another country can lead us to romantize our homeland, to break with some of our traditions or ways of thinking or to strenghten them, to become more liberate or more conservative and this could also change our perspectives on political, social and… situations.

  16. In my view Faist achieves to give a well-understandable insight to past and current debates about Diaspora and Transnationalism. The definition, that “diasporic phenomena can be conceived as subset of transnational social formations that have broader scope” (p. 33) resonated most with me and how I would have looked at those terms.
    The text also reinforced my personal interest in migrant (or diaspora) organisations and how they shape immigrant and emigrant countries under the conditions of modern time-space-compression.

    The referendum in turkey could be an excellent starting point to answering, or to try answering, the question Faist raises on page 26 of “how consequential diaspora politics and extraterritorial voting and the extension of citizenship rights across borders of national states actually are, and in what way they may contribute to the ongoing transformation of national citizenship”.

  17. Good evening everybody.

    Just like Andrés did or more accurate didn’t do, I won’t summarize the whole article. I would rather give my opinion about it and then continue to write my thoughts about some specific points that Faist mentioned.
    To be honest I must say, that in some extend I was overwhelmed by the amount of different perspectives, concepts and theories (“lenses”) being exposed in the article. At some point, I thought that I was reading and endless Introduction to the book. At the other side the continuous repetition of the basic characteristics defining Diaspora and Transnationalism was helpful to better understanding it.
    Concerning the part about the Methodology being used in the book: I couldn’t understand it fully. But the method I found the most interesting was the one proposed by Mazzucato. She proposed the so called matched- sample methodology (SMS) (Pp: 28-29). It is a tool attempting to cover transnational flows across localities, instead of only focusing in one flow (e.g: only the homeland). In my opinion to concentrate on all the flows involved seems much more appropriate regarding the nature of the researched subject. The fact, that this method implies considering the world system theory, and the asymmetries constituting it, is an appropriate lens to talk about migration to and from Latin-American, due to its undeniable “ex-colony feature”.
    Some of the questions that came into my mind while reading the texts are:
    1. While defining the older and newer notions of diaspora (p. 13) I was wondering if the change between them is due to the new perceptions and -sometimes- new social positions of the younger generations of immigrants.
    2. The author states, that the concepts of diaspora and transnationalism regarding human mobility “may reinforce and recreate all kind of beliefs and- isms, including nationalism, patriarchism, sexism, sectarianism, and ethno- nationalism” (p. 15). So, human mobility may only cause more tolerance in a utopian world? Or only to the most privileged kind of migrants, which displace themselves as they please?
    3. My last question is about seeing Transnational groups as homogenous. As an example, we could consider the different concepts people have of some Kurdish associations (parties and other groups). And how this is might be influenced by the political climate on the home and “kinland” (cf. the relation of Kurdish groups and the German leftwing, and some possible contradictions between this leftist ideology and some practices of such groups in Turkey) *.

    *I am no expert in the Turkey- Kurdish field, and most of my information comes from non-empirical sources or non- Turkish media. I do not speak Turkish, so that the news I hear or read about it comes from the German or Mexican media, and I was only once there as a tourist.

    Have a nice long weekend!

  18. The text definitely does fulfil its introductory role and provides conceptual tools in order to address such a complex topic as it is migration. Although the two terms analysed by Faist are, in my opinion, very important regarding migration studies and can help us to reach a better understanding of the historical facts that had led to the movement of different people, capital and ideas, I don’t consider the concept of “diaspora”, understood as a sui géneris term, to be a useful partner for this contemporary dance, that is, a systematic empirical analysis. Especially with regard to the political connotation contained by the word, because the analysis of it itself, not as part of a general analysis of transnational phenomena, but as a separated category, preserves its inherent partial implications. When studying Diasporas and transnational migration, the most significant difference, as far as I’m concerned, were the reasons which led this groups of people to move physically from their homelands to other countries. Moreover, I would say that will was the main factor, since the consequences are, in both cases but not exclusively, political and therefore it’s difficult to think of a theoretical analysis of transnationalism aside from the concept of ´nation-state`, which represents both rights and abuse guarantor; recognition and/or duress.

  19. I liked the text because of its obvious intention of explain the concepts of diaspora and transnationalism (which I didn´t knew before), but it´s really hard for me to imagine them in their practical … rather than to comprehend them in theory, which seems to de easier. I think that in the modern, globalised world it is quite difficult to try to adjust every migration movement andflowto either of the two concepts, with no operators that allow us to distinguish them, so I was very thankful when the author subcategorized the terms.
    For me, the most interesting part of the text was the already mentioned stateless diasporas. Are people and tribes like for example the Pashtun people either to be described in means of transnationalism because they cross borders that virtually don´t exist for them? Or are they their own diasporas in the two countries? It would be interesting how the people themselves see this matter and how the perspective of the two states, Afghanistan and Pakistan would be in this example.
    Another example could maybe be indigenous tribes in South America/Amazonia that are in the nearly same situation as the people in the example before. Is it transnationalism when there are no visible borders to cross, and if there are, how does the state interfere with traditional lifestyles by “securing” these borders?
    The text gave me a general idea of how to evaluate migration movements and diasporas under a theoretical scope and helped me answer a lot of questions that came to my mind after reading the introduction and being confronted with these concepts the first time. Nonetheless I look forward to reading the subsequent scripts hoping my comprehension of these will improve.
    Greets and a nice weekend to you all!

  20. Diaspora, transnationalism, and dancing: Inspiration from pop culture

    In his introductory chapter to the volume “Diaspora and Transnationalism. Concepts, Theories and Methods”, Thomas Faist undergoes the very conventional task of first outlining the issues at hand (namely, the notions of diaspora and transnationalism) and then sketching the different perspectives present in the respective publication.
    The distinctions between both terms seem to be rather fuzzy but still painfully important. Some fundamental differences, however, seem to be that diaspora (traditionally) focuses on religious and cultural communities (cf. Faist 2010: 9) whereas transnationalist approaches analyse social, political and economic processes (cf. Faist 2010: 13). Also, diaspora seemingly emphasises ties to (possibly imagined) homelands, whereas transnationalism stresses “issues of incorporation and integration in immigration countries” (Faist 2010: 20).

    Faist, in order to characterize the relationship between both concepts, uses the metaphor of a dancing couple – to be exact, he refers to them as “awkward dance partners” (Faist 2010: 9). As he himself brings up the issue of scientific metaphors (cf. Faist 2010: 17), it seems fair to take a closer look at this image.
    As Johnny Castle puts it in the timeless classic Dirty Dancing, dance partners, though seemingly united in a single motion, must always remain somewhat separated: “Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine.” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092890/quotes, last accessed: 05/03/2017, 16:36:45) This separation and self-centeredness is crucial in order to maintain stability and grace while moving through space together. This, however, does not seem to be the case with the two concepts at hand – they constantly seem to be treading on each other’s toes, shifting their weight to different limbs and changing directions.

    Fundamentally, the dancing metaphor points to a paradox situation. Dance partners are united yet separated, they are constantly moving while at the same time remaining stable – and, interestingly, their common aim is to create an aesthetic experience. Maybe, one conclusion to be drawn from Faist’s introduction is that balancing these complex and ever-shifting concepts is an art in itself.

    On a more concrete note, dancing is a form of expressing identities and cultural belonging and has its own political implications and subversive potential – as well as its place in the analysis of diasporic communities and practices (cf. e.g. Henderson 2014). Thus, the metaphor seems to advance on the ‘conceptual space’ between both notions from two sides: on the one hand, dancing has its own intrinsic rules that, though differing through different cultures and times, structure it from within. On the other hand, dancing is a form of cultural expression and, in many cases, a social institution, thus in this case creating an oscillating setting for the discussion of theoretical notions.

    This can only be a very superficial and preliminary approach to the topic – however, looking at the metaphors employed in scientific discourse can provide us with new, often surprising perspectives on scientific writing.

    Additional Literature
    Henderson, Mae G.: Speaking in Tonfues and Dancing Diaspora: Black Women Writing and Performing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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