Imagining the Homeland from Afar: Community and Peoplehood in the Age of the Diaspora
80 Pages Posted: 23 May 2012 Last revised: 19 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 2012
Diasporas — understood as groups of individuals or communities who carry an image of a homeland that is separate from the hostland in which they reside — have always been with us. As long as there have been large movements of people across boundaries, be it voluntarily or involuntarily, there have been diasporas. The image of the homeland that diasporas carry could be real (an existing country) or literally imagined (a future country). In whatever way diasporas imagine the homeland, they have often attempted to act as if they were part of “we the people” of the homeland. They imagine themselves to be “outside the state but inside the people.” Diasporas’ interventions in homeland affairs have often been welcomed (or encouraged) by governments of the homeland, but not always. Both when there is a convergence and divergence of interests between diasporas and governments of homelands, the issue that is raised is whether diasporas are indeed “inside the people” although “outside the state”. This article explores how and for what purpose diasporas could be considered to be part of the people of the homeland and when not. This requires a theory of “peoplehood” that this article develops and defends. Using the notion of “community of stakeholders,” the article indicates when and how those who are outside the state and yet consider themselves to be inside the people can participate in the life of the homeland. The article also advances and defends the claim that the relationship between diasporas and homelands enables us to find a bridge between the claims of cosmopolitans and unreconstructed territorialists, for the version of community that is worked out of the relationship between diasporas and homelands is one that mediates the two aspects of our existence in this globalized world — national attachment and cosmopolitan sentiment. The homeland-diaspora relationship offers a point of departure for understanding how communities are formed and transformed; how legal obligations and allegiances develop and are altered; and generally how a people constitutes itself both within and across territorial boundaries.
Keywords: Diaspora, Communities, International Law, Membership, Citizenship
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