Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Transborder Kin-Minority as Symbolic Resource in Hungary

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Transborder Kin-Minority as Symbolic Resource in Hungary

Article excerpt

1. Diaspora and transnationalism: a comparative sketch

In the past decades, transnationalism and diasporas have become a major research field in social sciences (Agunias, 2009; Basch et al., 1994; Bauböck, 2010; Erdal and Oeppen, 2013; Esman, 2009; Faist and Kivisto, 2007; Faist et al., 2010; Faist, 1999; Faist et al., 2011; Øestergaard-Nielsen, 2003; Østergaard-Nielsen, 2003; Quayson and Daswani, 2013; Sheffer, 2006; Smith, 2010). The phenomena themselves, however, are not new. Transnationalism, defined broadly as ties linking people across borders of states, predates the emergence of modern nation states (Cohen, 1999; Vertovec, 1999). The dispersion of ethnic and religious groups was common well before modern times. Mass population movement was a common result of wars and conquests, demographic and economic changes before the emergence of Westphalian nation states. Well before modern transportation and telecommunication tools, the transfer of goods and knowledge was carried out by mainly by migration which had a huge impact on ancient empires (Koslowski, 2002). There are, however, important systemic differences between past and contemporary transnational networks and engagement. While dispersed ethnic and religious groups often maintained and reproduced their cultural customs and identification with their homelands often before the modern era, contemporary diasporas can become virtual members of their homeland societies through the use of modern telecommunication technologies. Satellite television and the internet rendered geographical distance less relevant and made it possible for expatriates and diaspora groups to overcome physical distance and actively participate in the social life of their homelands (Basch et al., 1994). In contrast with older forms of migrant crossborder activities, contemporary transnationalism implies "regular and sustained social contacts over time across national borders" (Portes et al., 1999, p. 219). Frequent interaction through modern means of communication establishes a qualitatively different transnational experience, since it makes it possible to maintain active presence in homeland public spheres.

Transnational participation impacts not only the sense of belonging and identification, but also transnational political and economic participation. As diasporas and expatriates became constantly connected to their homelands, they could easily utilize their dual, inbetween status and start lucrative business projects. "Middleman diasporas" (Cohen, 1997; Esman, 2009) have been active in two directions. On the one hand, they have been importing goods and ideas from their homelands as well as acting as magnets for chain migration. Overseas diasporas have also been active in the reverse direction. Through investment, remittances and the import of knowledge, they have become important economic actors in their homelands. In some cases, they demanded political rights so that they can as stakeholders and influence decisions (Bauböck, 2007, 2003). The increasing volume of grassroots transnational engagement has incentivized governments to intervene in order to regulate and further mobilize diasporas (Portes, 1999). In contrast with migration and transnational engagement, institutionalized diaspora politics is a relatively new phenomenon. With the increase in the volume of migration and the parallel growth of transnational networks, governments became interested in diaspora institution building. Since the 1980s there has been a significant growth in the number of diaspora institutions, and today more than half of all states are estimated to have set up some formal institutional arrangements to include expatriates and diasporas (Gamlen et al., 2013).

In many cases, governments realized that expatriates could be used for lobbying purposes in geostrategically important developed countries. In order to facilitate lobbying, governments tried to organize diasporas and strengthen their ties with their homeland governments so as to make lobbying more effective. …

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