Diaspora as a project

Under transnational mobilization

Universal or Particular?

What is diaspora? What makes diaspora different from immigrants? Adamson (2012) theorized diaspora as "the products or outcomes of transnational mobilization activities by political entrepreneurs engaged in strategic social identity construction." Hence, he suggested diaspora seeks "particularism" instead of "universalism." Is it?

Over the past two decades, scholars invested heavily in the theorization of diaspora mobilization/ politics to examine how diaspora comes into a specific form of transnational collective action based on an "imagined community." Previous literature reveals that diaspora could conduct at least three different actions in their host country to support their home country. Firstly, they could be the “long-distance” nationalists speaking of their homeland in their host country to stir up international intervention through political lobbying. (Anderson 1998; Koinova 2010; Moss 2019; DeWind and Segura 2014) Secondly, they could participate in the social movement in their homeland afar by funneling cash, medical aid, or weapons to the dissidents in their homeland. (Adamson 2005; Anderson 1998; Lainer-Vos 2013) Thirdly, they could physically return to their homeland to join the resistance. Some elites could even play a significant role in the anti-regime movement. (Adamson 2005, 2013; Koinova 2011).

So what is diaspora? The recent debate between Rogers Brubaker and Claire Alexander provides us some guidelines to understand the two schools of thought, which I called, diaspora as a category of experience versus diaspora as a category of practice. Such a debate also invites a deeper discussion of historical "root" versus presentism; memories as an informant versus construct; structure versus agency. 

Diaspora as a project:
Defining "Hongkongers" in actions

 

The 2019 anti-extradition bill movement started a new era of resistance in Hong Kong. Across the globe, Hong Kong diaspora mobilized to support their homeland uprising. Such a movement drew a lot of international attention and fueled the US-China diplomatic tensions. However, encountering the global pandemic, or what Hong Kong people called, "the Wuhan Virus," rallies and protests were paused both locally and globally. With the introduction of national security law on July 1, 2020, massive protests in Hong Kong came to an end, even overseas rallies became high-risk activism. Under the new law, any form of local resistance or global actions could be seen as either inciting subversion of state power or collusion with the foreign nationals. 

While social movement events in Hong Kong and beyond are criminalized and diminished, demands are still mostly unfulfilled. Unlike some literature suggested, the diaspora groups did not disintegrate upon the decline of political opportunities. Instead, many re-oriented their project to sustain their political commitment to the homeland resistance. 

 

Here, I believe "Hongkonger" in the global context entails a bigger story that enriches our understandings of why diaspora mobilizes. Also, it provides a case that draws on the intersections between theories on nationalism, transnationalism, social movement, and diaspora.

In my current research project, I examine,

(1) how the sense of futureless to their homeland generates both nationalism and transnationalism among the diaspora groups under international diplomatic relations and homeland resistance;
 

(2) how diaspora becomes a project that produces and sustains political commitment and reconstructs "Hongkongers" identity; 
 

(3) how people construct "us versus them" boundaries to draw political meanings and re-inforces participation in the host and home country politics.

Disclaimer: Posters are displayed only for illustrative purposes of the global campaigns throughout the Hong Kong Anti-extradition Bill Movement.

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