Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNumérosvol 22. n°57Introduction

Texte intégral

  • 1 See Denise Helly, “Diaspora : un enjeu politique, un symbole, un concept?”, Espace populations soc (...)
  • 2 See Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction, London: UCL Press, 1997.
  • 3 The word “catégorique” is used in French by Stéphane Dufoix in Les diasporas, Paris: Presses unive (...)
  • 4 The word “étroite” is used in French by Chantal Bordes-Benayoun and Dominique Schnapper, Diasporas (...)
  • 5 See for example: Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction, op. cit.; William Safran, “Diaspo (...)
  • 6 See for example: James Clifford, “Diasporas”, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 9, no 3, 1994, 306.
  • 7 Stéphane Dufoix, Carine Guerassimof and Anne de Tinguy (eds.), Loin des yeux, près du cœur, Paris  (...)

1Since the 1990s, diaspora studies have become an academic field in its own right within social sciences. Nonetheless, despite attempts to develop a theoretical framework, no single definition for the term “diaspora” has emerged.1 For those in favour2 of a “categorical”3 or “narrow”4 definition, centered on the Jewish experience, diasporas share very few, specific characteristics.5 Key features include uprooting, exile, a scattering from a central location, the homeland, and non-assimilation into the hostland. Conversely, the so-called “postmodern” approach does not try to pin down the concept of “diaspora” to a single, narrow definition, preferring instead to take into account the diversity of viewpoints and the voice of minorities. Consequently, the idea of a country of origin is no longer essential and a painful shared experience, such as that endured by enslaved Africans, can clearly be the cement that binds a diaspora.6 In this issue, the authors do not engage in theory building but have chosen to focus primarily on state-diaspora relationships. Dufoix et al.7 zoomed in on the political side of this question. On a different note, this issue approaches it from the economic angle.

  • 8 Jean Gottmann, “La généralisation des diasporas et ses conséquences,” in Prévélakis Georges (ed.), (...)
  • 9 See Tanja Bueltmann, David T. Gleeson and Donald M. MacRaild (eds.), Locating the English Diaspora(...)
  • 10 According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “British Isles” is a geographical term for the islands (...)
  • 11 As highlighted by Hiram Morgan, populations originating from Ireland participated in building the (...)

2We have opted for a broad definition for the concept of diaspora, in line with Jean Gottmann who widens its scope to embrace a variety of experiences, including the Spanish, Portuguese and British migrations, as colonial empires expanded.8 In the same vein, the “English-speaking world” which spread beyond the borders of England from the 16th century onwards along with the rise of the British Empire owed much to diasporas from the British Isles.9 The sample of English-speaking diasporas that are dealt with in this issue gives insight into the great diversity of their ethnic origins, their unique stories and the type of relationship they entertain with the state authorities of their homelands. These diasporas differ from other diasporas both by the number of people they have comprised throughout the centuries and by the extent of their scattering all over the world (the Greek word diaspeírô means “dispersion”). Leaving behind the home environment of the British Isles10 (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland),11 English-speaking communities indeed settled in North America, India, Asia, Australia and Africa. What was once a colonial empire eventually became a collection of nation states as the various territories gained independence. English was retained as the official language in many of these countries and their institutions inherited from colonisation set them apart from former French, Spanish or Portuguese colonies and from Chinese-speaking territories. These features can be seen as a legacy of their colonial history and of the role that diasporas have played, along with public authorities, in the making of the English-speaking world. Some populations, from territories colonized by the British, in turn went or, in many instances, were sent (organised migration) to other parts of the world to contribute to the development of the Empire. This was the case of Indian indentured workers who went to Africa, the Pacific, the Americas and various places in the Indian ocean. In parallel with this type of emigration, a number of Indian traders chose to emigrate to African countries where they had connections with fellow countrymen hence forming an English-speaking diasporic community there.

  • 12 Nina Glick Schiller et al., “From Immigrant to Transmigrant: Theorizing Transnational Migration”, (...)

3Some diasporas from non-English speaking territories also live in English-speaking ones. In countries such as the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the diasporas from Africa, Western Europe and Russia and more recently, from Asia and Latin America, have substantially contributed to the development of some economic sectors and economic growth. Today, these diasporas are closely linked to the term “transmigrant” used by sociologist Nina Glick Schiller who describes this phenomenon as “immigrants whose daily lives depend on multiple and constant interconnections across international borders and whose public identities are configured in relationship to more than one nation state.”12

  • 13 Chantal Bordes-Benayoun and Dominique Schnapper, Diasporas et nations, op. cit., 36-57.
  • 14 For instance, this is the opinion of Samuel Huntington who believes that initiatives by diasporas (...)
  • 15 Gabriel Sheffer, “The Politics of Ethno-National Diasporas” in Lisa Anteby-Yemeni, William Berthom (...)

4But, as Chantal Bordes-Benayoun and Dominique Schnapper note, diasporas were, until relatively recently, generally viewed with suspicion by hostlands which, as a rule, tend to promote the notion of “nation state” and thus a certain uniformity.13 Besides, members of the diaspora who are close to decision-makers can use soft power to shape the economic or foreign policy of their country of residence in favour of their country of origin. This explains why their influence is still sometimes looked upon warily.14 Even if, as will be seen, diasporas’ image has improved dramatically in recent years, and they are now widely acknowledged to contribute to the economic well-being of their hostland as well as their homeland,15 diasporas are by definition groups that are not or only partly assimilated to the local population and thus still exposed to the whims of the hostland’s authorities. In addition, economic circumstances in the hostland are not always favourable and may require from the diasporic communities to adapt.

  • 16 Ivan Light, “Transnational Entrepreneurs in an English-Speaking World,” Die Erde, vol. 141, no 1-2 (...)
  • 17 Jean Gottmann, op. cit.
  • 18 The Economist, 19 November 2011.

5Ivan Light points out that the relations between diasporas and states or home countries have long been characterised by what can be described as a “hub and spoke” structure, the hub being the home country.16 The diasporas that had settled throughout the world acted as a bridge between their home country and their host country. Since the 1980s, however, accelerating globalisation has brought along radical changes by paving the way for more transnationalism. Instead of thinking of individuals as belonging to a community of origin, transnational studies focus on the multiple networks a person can relate to in his or her personal and professional life. Gottman talks about “business diasporas” and “a very diverse diaspora of experts and executives.”17 Some of them have played a role in the development of economic ties between the English-speaking world and their home countries. Undoubtedly, information on the markets of the host countries travels faster nowadays thanks to new communication technologies, trade networks and the social relationships that their members sustain with their home countries. Participation in those networks promotes trust between the members of these networks and thus makes their business dealings easier.18

6Caixia Tan brings to the fore the little-known history of the Chinese US-trained returned scientific diaspora from the mid-19th century to the present days. Tan unveils not only the extent of their role in knowledge diffusion and technology transfer but also its considerable influence on its homeland’s/China’s institutional transformation. Furthermore, the Chinese returnees contributed to a large extent to conveying American influence and soft power in this part of Asia. This being said, it bears noting that the relationship between China and the United States has had its highs and lows. Indeed, in 1949 the US refused to recognize the newly-established People’s Republic of China. But, cooperation between the two countries in the scientific field resumed in the early 1970s. Tan highlights that in the initial phase of the US-China rapprochement, the Chinese scientists and engineers who were educated in the US before 1949 became very helpful when it came to building trust and mutual understanding between the two countries. In the ensuing decades, the number of Chinese students in the US kept on increasing. Some have settled in the US and kept contributing to the field of research, others have become global entrepreneurs. But, as Tan underscores, some kept on tapping low-cost technical talents and financing in China. Those who returned to China have brought back a wealth of ideational and technical resources which have contributed to domestic reforms in the fields of education, the economy, politics, science and technology. Some returnees have become entrepreneurs while maintaining their professional networks in the US. The Chinese authorities value highly the contribution of the US trained (returned) Chinese diaspora which is considered as part of the country’s elite.

  • 19 Anne Groutel, Les deux Irlandes et la diaspora : un attachement intéressé, Caen: Presses universit (...)

7States are becoming increasingly aware that their diasporas may represent a valuable resource. Many countries have drawn up diaspora policies to try and convince their diasporas to engage with the homeland, generally with an ulterior economic motive. Some provide incentives to their expatriates to persuade them to come back so that the experience and knowledge of the latter may benefit their country of origin. Others establish links with diaspora business magnates with a view to attracting foreign direct investment. As early as the 1960s, Ireland established links with Irish-American business elites who were instrumental in the country’s economic development. It has managed to maintain these valuable connections by renewing the pool of tycoons willing to assist the homeland’s economy.19 Their help was once again called upon in 2009 when Ireland was in the depth of the financial crisis. More recently, the Irish authorities, aware of the US declining economic leadership and that Brexit has reshuffled the cards on the international scene, have reviewed their diaspora strategy, as shown by Julien Guillaumond. Ireland’s new strategy has adopted a “post-modern” and more inclusive definition of the concept of diaspora whose scope is now global and which includes the LGBT diaspora and affinity diaspora (non-nationals with an interest in Ireland).

8Diasporas have become so valuable that some countries even court other countries’ diasporas with a view to “poaching” the best talents. Eve Bantman compares and contrasts the Canadian and French strategies related to migration engagement and the promotion of diaspora engagement. Her research reveals that Canadian authorities have successfully delegated the promotion of immigration of French-speaking professionals to Canada, Quebec in particular, to NGOs, private companies and French immigrants, with the approval of the French authorities. Indeed, the latter have consistently encouraged mobility abroad being convinced that it contributes to French soft power and French international prestige (rayonnement international). Intriguingly, so far they seem to have overlooked the fact that diaspora engagement can contribute to French economic development.

9This said, if using the potential of diasporas to further economic development can seem fairly straightforward at first sight, in practice, things are more complex. The different groups composing a diaspora are scattered geographically and, depending on their host countries, they are not equally successful. Furthermore, the fact that each diaspora’s history is unique can help explain why the relationship between the homeland’s authorities and the diaspora can, in some instances, be thorny. Ondine Aza deals with the Fijian government’s efforts to gather the support of the diaspora in the name of the archipelago’s economic development. This case study epitomizes the complexity of finding the right words and arguments to convey an official message that can rally a multi-ethnic diaspora amidst ethnic tensions in the homeland.

10Anouche Der-Sarkissian also focuses on the diversity of the Armenian diaspora worldwide and the nature of its long-standing engagement with the homeland, from philanthropy to the participation of prominent personalities of the diaspora in governing the country. But she also sheds light on the rocky relationship between the Armenian diaspora, particularly the Armenian-American one, and the homeland authorities after the creation of the first Armenian state in 1918. She also shows how disagreements about the political situation in the homeland provoked a long-lasting dispute which divided the diaspora.

11Diaspora engagement can hold as many opportunities as threats for the countries involved. If diasporic populations contribute to the economic development of their country of origin, chances are they will play an increasingly powerful role in both economic and political spheres. For instance, they may be willing to promote the economic and social model of their host country in their home country, which is far from insignificant. In addition, the authorities in the home country could be compelled to give in to the requests of its diaspora, and indeed, to its claims, if they want to continue to benefit from its “loyal service.” Anne Groutel discusses diaspora philanthropy in the Irish context through the case study of Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation created by Charles F. Feeney, an Irish-American tycoon. The considerable amounts of money that this foundation endowed the Irish state with were used to enable third level institutions to undertake world-class research, one of the country’s assets that have attracted foreign multinationals. However, The Atlantic Philanthropies also dedicated some of its resources to projects and causes that it, or Feeney, deemed worthy of support even if some of them were not to the Irish authorities’ or part of public opinion’s liking. This case thus raises a number of issues since such (diaspora) foundations are accountable to their donors, not to the electorate (of the homeland). Reaching out to the diaspora can thus be a double-edged instrument as some diaspora magnates may feel they are entitled to get involved in, or interfere with, the homeland politics in return for their financial contribution.

Additional Note

  • 20 This lab has been renamed “Pôle 1 – Dynamiques et modèles socioéconomiques” and is now part of the (...)

12The current issue follows a one-day international workshop entitled “Diasporas, States and Economic Development in the English-speaking World: Opportunities and Threats,” organized by the research center CREW/CERVEPAs (Centre d’études et de recherches sur la vie économique des pays anglophones) at Sorbonne Nouvelle University on June 24, 2019.20 We want to thank all the contributors in the current volume for having shared their insights, expertise, and unique perspectives on the intermingling political, economic, and social dynamics of state-diaspora relationships. Gratitude is also extended to all anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback, and to the editorial team at LISA, especially Delphine Letort, Nicole Cloarec and David Haigron, who provided us with support and guidance from the very start to the final stage of the publication. It is our hope that this collective and collaborative effort will contribute to the understanding of the multifaceted nature of the broader diaspora studies. Special credit goes to our dear colleague, Professor emeritus Martine Azuelos, for her unfailing support, insightful comments, valuable advice, corrections, as well as encouragement at each stage of this academic endeavor.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

BORDES-BENAYOUN Chantal and Dominique SCHNAPPER, Diasporas et Nations, Paris: Odile Jacob, 2006.

BUELTMANN Tanja, David T. GLEESON and Donald M. MACRAILD (eds), Locating the English Diaspora, 1500-2010, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012.

CLIFFORD James, “Diasporas”, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 9, no 3, 1994, 332-338.

COHEN Robin, Global Diasporas: An Introduction, London: UCL Press, 1997.

DUFOIX Stéphane, Les diasporas, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2003.

DUFOIX Stéphane, Carine GUERASSIMOF and Anne DE TINGUY (eds), Loin des yeux, près du cœur, Paris: Les Presses de Sciences Po, 2010.

GLICK SCHILLER Nina et al., “From Immigrant to Transmigrant: Theorizing Transnational Migration”, Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 68, no 1, 1995, 48-63.

GOTTMANN Jean, “La généralisation des diasporas et ses conséquences”, in PRÉVÉLAKIS Georges (ed.), Les réseaux des diasporas, Paris: L’Harmattan-KYKEM, 1996, 21-28.

GROUTEL Anne, Les deux Irlandes et la diaspora : un attachement intéressé, Caen: Presses universitaires de Caen, 2021.

HELLY Denise, “Diaspora : un enjeu politique, un symbole, un concept ?”, Espace populations sociétés, 2006/1, <https://journals.openedition.org/eps/960>, accessed on 3 March 2020.

HUNTINGTON Samuel P., “Diasporas, Foreign Governments and American Politics: An Excerpt from ‘Merging America with the World,’” in “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” Military Review, vol. 98, no 2, 2018, <https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/Huntington-Diasporas-and-American-Politics.pdf>, accessed on 12 February 2020.

LIGHT Ivan, “Transnational Entrepreneurs in an English-Speaking World,” Die Erde, vol. 141, no 1-2, 2010, 1-16.

MORGAN Hiram, “An Unwelcome Heritage: Ireland’s Role in British Empire-Building”, History of European Ideas, vol. 19, nos 4-6, 619-625.

SAFRAN William, “Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return,” Diaspora, vol. 5, no 1, 1991, 83-99.

SHEFFER Gabriel, “The Politics of Ethno-National Diasporas” in Lisa ANTEBY-YEMENI, William BERTHOMIÈRE and Gabriel SHAFFER (eds.), Les Diasporas. 2000 ans d’histoire, Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2005, 125-135.

THE ECONOMIST, “The Magic of Diasporas”, 19 November 2011.

Haut de page

Notes

1 See Denise Helly, “Diaspora : un enjeu politique, un symbole, un concept?”, Espace populations sociétés, 2006/1, <https://journals.openedition.org/eps/960>, accessed on 3 March 2020.

2 See Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction, London: UCL Press, 1997.

3 The word “catégorique” is used in French by Stéphane Dufoix in Les diasporas, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2003, 24-26.

4 The word “étroite” is used in French by Chantal Bordes-Benayoun and Dominique Schnapper, Diasporas et Nations, Paris: Odile Jacob, 2006, 178.

5 See for example: Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction, op. cit.; William Safran, “Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return,” Diaspora, vol. 5, no 1, 1991, 83-99.

6 See for example: James Clifford, “Diasporas”, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 9, no 3, 1994, 306.

7 Stéphane Dufoix, Carine Guerassimof and Anne de Tinguy (eds.), Loin des yeux, près du cœur, Paris : Les Presses de Sciences Po, 2010.

8 Jean Gottmann, “La généralisation des diasporas et ses conséquences,” in Prévélakis Georges (ed.), Les réseaux des diasporas, Paris: L’Harmattan-KYKEM, 1996, 22.

9 See Tanja Bueltmann, David T. Gleeson and Donald M. MacRaild (eds.), Locating the English Diaspora, 1500-2010, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012.

10 According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “British Isles” is a geographical term for the islands comprising Great Britain and Ireland with all their offshore islands including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. However, this term is controversial in Ireland as it implies some kind of unity with the United Kingdom. Ireland was England’s first colony but Ireland became officially independent from the UK with the creation the Irish Free State on 6 December 1922.

11 As highlighted by Hiram Morgan, populations originating from Ireland participated in building the British Empire from the outset. Hiram Morgan, “An Unwelcome Heritage: Ireland’s Role in British Empire-Building”, History of European Ideas, vol. 19, nos 4-6, 1994, 619-625.

12 Nina Glick Schiller et al., “From Immigrant to Transmigrant: Theorizing Transnational Migration”, Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 68, no 1, 1995, 48.

13 Chantal Bordes-Benayoun and Dominique Schnapper, Diasporas et nations, op. cit., 36-57.

14 For instance, this is the opinion of Samuel Huntington who believes that initiatives by diasporas can threaten the security and ultimately the integrity of nation-states. Samuel P. Huntington, “Diasporas, Foreign Governments and American Politics: An Excerpt from ‘Merging America with the World,’” in “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” Military Review, vol. 98, no 2, 2018, 24-39. https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/Huntington-Diasporas-and-American-Politics.pdf>, accessed on 12 February 2020

15 Gabriel Sheffer, “The Politics of Ethno-National Diasporas” in Lisa Anteby-Yemeni, William Berthomière and Gabriel Sheffer (eds.), Les Diasporas. 2000 ans d’histoire, Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2005, 130.

16 Ivan Light, “Transnational Entrepreneurs in an English-Speaking World,” Die Erde, vol. 141, no 1-2, 2010, 1-16.

17 Jean Gottmann, op. cit.

18 The Economist, 19 November 2011.

19 Anne Groutel, Les deux Irlandes et la diaspora : un attachement intéressé, Caen: Presses universitaires de Caen, 2021, 169-234.

20 This lab has been renamed “Pôle 1 – Dynamiques et modèles socioéconomiques” and is now part of the Center for Research on the English-speaking World (EA 4399) at Sorbonne Nouvelle University. The conference program is available at <http://www.univ-paris3.fr/diasporas-etats-et-developpement-economique-opportunites-et-risques-570375.kjsp>.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Anne Groutel, « Introduction »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol 22. n°57 | 2024, mis en ligne le 15 février 2024, consulté le 24 février 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/15636 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/lisa.15636

Haut de page

Auteur

Anne Groutel

Anne Groutel is a Senior Lecturer (accredited to direct PhD research) at Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University. A member of the GIS EIRE (a group of researchers with a common research interest), she currently co-directs the strand of research which focuses on “Rethinking the place of Ireland in the world: old configurations, new realities.” She is the author of numerous articles and several books on the Irish economy and on the economic strategies used by the Irish State since independence. In Les deux Irlandes et la diaspora : un attachement intéressé (2021), she studied the relationships Irish and Northern Irish government leaders have entertained with Irish-American business elites since the 1920s.

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0

Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search