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Craven, Catherine Ruth (2022) Locating Politics in the Global: (Dis)Entangling Diaspora Governance Practices. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Critical IR scholarship has argued that diaspora are governed in line with global political dynamics that class them as post/neocolonial, or neoliberal economic subjects. Fewer scholarly works have gone into exploring exactly how such structural dynamics are entangled with political struggles at the micro level, or into how global and local political dynamics relate to each other in diaspora governance. This thesis adopts a practice-centric approach to diaspora governance to illuminate these global-local entanglements of power. Through a multi-method exploration of various spaces where the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora organises and interacts with governance actors, this thesis argues that even under conditions of globalization diasporas are governed in localized ways, depending on where such governance is embedded. This is because in different contexts they are understood to present a different kind of governance challenge. While in spaces dominated by development governance actors, diasporas are primarily considered ‘partners’, in spaces where Transitional Justice is the primary governance concern diasporas are treated with much more ambiguity, sometimes as victims or perpetrators of human rights abuses, sometimes as legal experts, and sometimes as members of a global civil society. Meanwhile, in security governance spaces, diasporas are considered a ‘threat’, sometimes to the liberal state system, sometimes to ‘social cohesion’ or national security in the host state. Thus, the political struggles that drive diaspora governance are much more specific to the spaces in which they play out. This disrupts the understanding that diasporas are governed by a single overarching structural logic. Grounded in relational thinking, and with an emphasis not just on the discursive but also the networked, bureaucratic and spatial politics that make up diaspora governance, this thesis draws on 2 years of multi-method fieldwork amongst the Tamil diaspora population in Toronto, Geneva and London, including participant observation at events and in spaces of diaspora political mobilization, like the 34th UNHRC session, as well as semi-structured interviews with diaspora members and state and non-state governance actors and review of policy documents and secondary sources. It demonstrates how the global politics of diaspora governance become both de- and reterritorialised.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Fiona Adamson
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2022 16:55
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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