Academic journal article Refuge

Diasporic Nationalism, Citizenship, and Post-War Reconstruction

Academic journal article Refuge

Diasporic Nationalism, Citizenship, and Post-War Reconstruction

Article excerpt

Abstract

While ties between Cambodian diasporas and Cambodia have been significant and enduring over the decades of conflict, the political changes engendered by the internationally endorsed elections of 1993 have transformed the scope and characteristics of the transnational traffic. Shaped by complex ideological, class, gender, and generational dynamics, Cambodian diasporas' re-engagement with the ancestral homeland has since acquired a multidimensionality that extends beyond mere monetary remittance. Spanning both private and public spheres, from national to household levels, these transnational encounters necessarily dislodge the narrow analytic focus and assumptions that accompany much of the discourse of transnationalism, and interrogate critical issues of nationalism, citizenship, and belonging.

Resume

Malgre l'importance et la solidite des liens entre la diaspora cambodgienne et le Cambodge au cours de decennies de conflit, les changements politiques engendres par les elections avalisees de 1993 ont modifie la portee et les particularites de la circulation transnationale. Le reengagement de la diaspora a l'egard de la patrie, influence par une dynamique complexe quant aux ideologies, aux classes, aux sexes et aux generations, a depuis acquis une dimension multiforme qui depasse la simple allocation monetaire. Ces rencontres transnationales, englobant les spheres privees et publiques, du foyer a la nation, ecartent les hypotheses et les points de vue analytiques fermes qui accompagnent souvent le discours sur le transnationalisme. Elles remettent egalement en question les notions critiques de nationalisme, de citoyennete et d'appartenance.

Introduction

Despite the challenges posed by protracted conflict, compounding dislocations, and distance, Cambodians dispersed throughout various refugee camps, in third-country settlement, and in Cambodia have maintained strong ties that extend not only across time and geography but also across multiple dimensions of economic, social, and political engagement. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, when contact was constrained by political impediments, difficult access to the border camps and the economic hardships that confront new refugees in their countries of resettlement, these translocal relationships were sustained essentially through letters and financial remittances. In some instances, these exchanges were conducted between the many nodes in diaspora; in others, they made their way by circuitous routes from asylum in the West to needy families languishing in liminal refugee camps. Until the repatriation of refugees from the Thai-Cambodia border in 1991, remittances from overseas Cambodian communities provided a critical economic buffer, especially for families in camps not recognized by the UN. They continued, through the late 1980s and early 1990s, albeit in an imperceptible trickle, largely through the community of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that emerged following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the termination of Soviet subsidies. Following the repatriation of refugees from the Thai border camps back to Cambodia in 1991, support from overseas Cambodian communities was especially important for returnee families with little or no access to land and other productive means.

While transnational relations have been enduring and significant during the two decades of virtual regime isolation in Cambodia, the political changes brought about by the internationally endorsed elections of 1993 transformed the scope and nuance of transnational traffic. Liberalization of state control over movement of people, capital, goods, and information both into and out of Cambodia fortified and diversified transnational connections. Shaped by differing political tendencies and by complex class, gender, and generational dynamics, Cambodian diasporas' re-engagement of the ancestral homeland has since acquired a multi-dimensionality that, heretofore, has not been possible. …

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