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Diasporas and conflicts – understanding the nexus

In: Diaspora Studies
Authors:
Élise Féron Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere Peace Research Institute, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

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Bruno Lefort Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere Peace Research Institute, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

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A lot of literature has been published during the past two decades highlighting the role played by some diasporas in the conflicts raging in their home countries, and on the links between diasporas and ‘international terrorism’. Diasporas, especially those originating from conflict areas, are often depicted in policy circles as potential security threats, raising indiscriminate suspicion towards diasporas in general. Contemporary literature similarly treats the links between diasporas and conflicts in a rather simplistic way. Little time is for instance dedicated to understanding how diasporas might emerge and coalesce around conflicts long after the migration has occurred. The article, based on a critical examination of how diasporas originating from conflict areas have been described and defined in the academic literature, proposes an alternative understanding of the nexus between diasporas and conflicts. It notably highlights the limitations and pitfalls of an approach based on single-issue labels, which entails the essentialization of concerned groups, and which perpetuates methodological nationalism. The article instead proposes to understand the mechanisms by which diasporas become involved in conflicts by looking at a series of configurations, which can happen at specific temporalities (critical junctures, crises, etc.), in specific spaces, by specific actors, and through specific discursive articulations (how identities are assigned, which discourses on diaspora are produced, etc.). At the practical level, this entails the study, for instance, of contentious spaces where diasporas are created, or which diasporas create, but also of contentious events or time junctures at which the articulation between conflicts and diaspora groups is effected.

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