ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Diaspora and Social Movements: How a Distant Issue becomes Embedded in the Local Milieu of Activism

Civil Society
Contentious Politics
Ethnic Conflict
Social Movements
Joan Coma Roura
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Joan Coma Roura
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Download Full Paper

Abstract

Violent conflicts over statehood and sovereignty may involve a diaspora engaged with homeland politics from abroad. Even though these conflicts are closely associated with substantial nationalist claims, they also generate numerous foreign sympathisers. The literature on transnational social movements has paid little attention to transnational activism for national liberation struggles. Moreover, transnational mobilisation studies have centred their analysis on diaspora mobilisation, assuming they must have a leading role and omitting somewhat the role of non-diaspora actors. In contrast, this paper demonstrates how non-diaspora actors may actually assume a leading role, putting pressure on diaspora organisations and causing significant changes on their political commitment. Literature on global movements has tended to focus on their transnational dimension. However, in order to materialize and develop, transnational movements must rely on well-established national or local movements. Political activism, whether transnational or not, takes place in concrete places with concrete activists. So while there is attention to how local initiatives become national and eventually international, there is less understanding of how a distant and broad-based political movement becomes embedded in the local milieu of activism demands academic attention. Drawing on transnational contention theories of social movement and diaspora studies, this paper argues that one of the main strategies among non-diaspora activists is to connect their distant political cause with domestic political issues to expand community support. The interaction across time between mobilized diaspora actors, host-states’ grassroots organizations, social movements and significant political events is one of the key aspects of the paper. The aim is to show different mechanisms through which a foreign political issue is rooted in a specific context. I address these issues through an analysis of the case of the pro-Palestinian solidarity movement in Barcelona. Since 1987 pro-Palestinian groups and mobilisations have steadily increased. Although in Barcelona there is not a very numerous Palestinian community, they have exhibited a significantly high capacity for regular mobilisation. Compared with other analogous cases, such as the Saharawi, the pro-Palestinian movement has become strongly embedded into the local network of grassroots activism, NGO’s and movements, despite the fairly small number of Palestinian origin activists and organization. The investigation is carried out through an over-time process-tracing analysis. This paper presents some initial findings of my PhD research.