Diaspora engagement policies

Project description

Diasporas are not what they used to be. The term was once reserved for a few extraordinary groups that had managed to maintain coherence and commitment to a homeland despite the traumatic dispersion of their forebears. But now it seems that diasporas are springing up everywhere, conjured into existence by states of origin eager either to seize on or to engineer such commitments – often from scratch. The emigrant-homeland relationship that defines the concept of diaspora has therefore shifted, and in order to understand and explain the nature of diasporas in the modern world, it is necessary to examine the role of origin states in their formation and persistence.

As much as states are forming and transforming diasporas, diasporas are also reshaping states. ‘Diaspora engagement policies’ are a primary channel through which migrant source states are interacting with ‘their’ diasporas. These policies take a wide range of formal and informal manifestations, from symbolic and rhetorical appeals to the loyalty of emigrants and their descendants, to measures aimed at capturing and channelling a share of the migrant remittances that now dwarf global development aid, to new citizenship provisions that extend beyond state borders, to formal governmental institutions that harmonize and oversee the myriad ways in which states impact on, and are impacted by, diasporas.  Many people still assume migration policy means immigration policy – but emigration policy is an increasingly important consideration in a growing number of countries. These policies are not only changing the political landscape and institutional architecture of many states, but also subtly reshaping their basic terms of citizenship and sovereignty.

Source data: Diaspora Engagement Policies Project, Oxford Diasporas Programme

This project sought to understand how and why states engage their diasporas. In doing so it aimed to significantly advance comparative and theoretical knowledge on diaspora engagement policies around the world, and to mainstream this topic in the study of politics and international relations in general, and political geography in particular. It collected and analysed comprehensive data on diaspora engagement policies across the globe in the period since the second world war, using mixed research methods. In addition to working with new quantitative longitudinal data on a broad spectrum of diaspora engagement policies across the entire international system, the project compiled dozens of interviews with senior politicians and policy makers leading diaspora engagement initiatives in a wide range of migrant source countries.

Overseas citizen of India. Photograph: Rajive Sada

Project lead

Alan Gamlen, Research Associate, International Migration Institute

Project associates

Paul Vaaler
Alexandra Délano
Michael Cummings
Chris McIntyre
Elodie Jacoby

Project-related outputs

>Articles and Working Papers