Transnationalism as a Social Resource among Diaspora Communities: A research project funded by the Academy of Finland in 2016-2020 (no 295417). Research leader: Adjunct Professor Östen Wahlbeck.

In the current global era people are better connected than ever. Still, more information is needed about the processes whereby social resources can bridge both the divide between migrants’ new home countries and societies of origin. This project examines how social resources (social, political and affective transnational ties and practices) are mobilized as social/political action among members of diaspora communities both in the societies of settlement and departure.

The project offers an internationally valuable reconceptualization of migrant communities’ transnational engagements and how they relate to societal inclusion/exclusion and participation at individual and collective level across diverse institutional, political and discursive settings.

The research includes multi-sited data collection and a strong micro-level approach as manifested in three interrelated case studies: Filipino migrants in Finland and their family members back home; second generation Kurds active in Kurdish diaspora organisations in Finland and France; and Finnish migrants engaged in ‘expat’ associations. The overall data includes qualitative interviewing (semi-structured and biographic narrative interviews); ethnographic methods (observation); and virtual ethnography (online material). The data corpus is approached with narrative, thematic and content analyses. Through close collaboration the participants will develop a multi-sited and mixed-methodology approach, applicable to a wide range of cases.

The project generates a sound theoretical perspective by employing a diasporic lens. This enables (1) an analysis of the dynamics of diaspora communities’ organisation in (trans)national and global contexts, and (2) the creation of a comprehensive analytical framework that unravels how and by what means transnational engagements are capitalised upon, employed as social resources and transformed into individual/collective action. The three case studies are analysed comparatively to unfold the political, discursive and institutional dimensions of transnational engagement, yet with a strong grass-roots level approach.

The results are valuable to policy-makers and civil society actors by generating empirically grounded information on the scope, nature and intensity of migrant communities’ transnational engagements in/towards Finland and on the structural factors that impede or facilitate the maintenance and creation of such engagements.