Locating the Global Politics of Diaspora Engagement: Engaging Tamils in Development in Toronto–A Discussion with Visiting Scholar Catherine Craven

Monday, May 7, 2018

12:00 PM – 1:15 PM

Chung-wen Shih Conference Room, Suite 503

The Elliott School of International Affairs

1957 E St. NW,  Washington, DC 20052 

RSVP at go.gwu.edu/TamilDiasporainToronto

Tamil Diaspora 1

Tamil Diaspora 2

Recent decades have seen an increase in the adoption of diaspora engagement strategies by states, but also by a more complex global network of non-state governance actors, including the World Bank, NGOs and the private sector. Interestingly, as diaspora engagement is ‘globalized’, it also tends to become depoliticised. Especially in the field of international development diaspora engagement is now overwhelmingly framed as an operational strategy or management tool. And yet, far from an apolitical best practice, diaspora engagement in any policy field necessarily produces hierarchies within and among diaspora groups, and it can create and reify oppressive and exclusionary categories related to diasporas and migrants more widely (the terrorist, or the “model minority”, for example). The politics of diaspora engagement thus deserve critical attention. However, existing scholarship has tended to bracket either the global dynamics or the local context of such politics. In contrast, my thesis proposes to locate the global politics of diaspora engagement in the realm of practice. Practices embody political struggles informed by the hierarchical distribution of capital within emergent global social fields, which I conceptualize as assemblages.

Based on 6 months of multi-method fieldwork, the presentation will focus on mapping the practices of my first case study, the engagement of the Tamil diaspora for development in Toronto. The mapping suggests a complex interplay of global and local practices – both by the diaspora and the engagers – that are deeply intertwined with the places of engagement. Preliminary analysis of the prevalence of certain practices suggests that both social capital (in the form of elite professional networks and the ability to scale jump), and cultural capital (informed by both UN sustainable development norms, and Canadian national identity) significantly shape the politics of diaspora engagement in this context.

This event is free and open to the public.

About the Speaker:

Catherine Craven is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS, University of London and currently a visiting scholar at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies inside the Elliott School of International Affairs at GW. Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, her research explores the global and local politics of diaspora engagement in governance through the lens of Tamil diasporans. She has also been a visiting scholar at York University’s Centre for Asian Research, a research associate at the Free University of Berlin’s collaborative research centre (SFB 700) ‘Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood’, and a research assistant at the Global Public Policy Institute. She received her MSc in Global Politics from the London School of Economics, and her BA in Anthropology from the University of Sussex. Her research interests include globalization and global governance, cities, diasporas and transnationalism, practice theory and post-positive thinking in political science.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *