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Imagining the homeland from afar: community and peoplehood in the age of the diaspora.


Diasporas--understood as groups of individuals or communities who carry an image of a homeland that is separate from the host land in which they reside--have always been with us. As long as there have been large movements of people across boundaries, be it voluntary or involuntary, there have been diasporas. The image of the homeland that diasporas carry could be real (an existing country) or imagined (a future country). In whatever way diasporas imagine the homeland, they have often attempted to act as if they belong to "we the people" of the homeland. They imagine themselves to be "outside the state but inside the people." Homeland governments have often welcomed (or encouraged) diasporas' interventions in homeland affairs, but not always. Whether diasporas are indeed inside the people" although "outside the state" becomes an issue both when the interests of diasporas and governments of the homelands converge and when they diverge. 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 bridging the claims of cosmopolitans and unreconstructed territorialists, for the version of community that is worked out of the relationship between diasporas and homelands mediates the two aspects of people's 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. (1)

 A. Understanding the Notion of the Diaspora
 B. Diaspora as the "Paradigmatic Other"
 of the Nation-State: Identity and Otherness
 C. The Diaspora and Ethno-cultural
 D. The Significance of the Diaspora for a New
 Theory of Peoplehood and Membership
 A. The Silence of International Law
 B. The Constitution of Peoplehood in an Age of
 Transition: The League of Nations and the
 Dependency Model
 C. The Constitution of Peoplehood: The
 Communitarian Model
 1. The Issue of Community Deferred
 2. The Issue of Community Joined:
 When Relationships Sour
 3. The Contest to Define We the People
 a. The Nation-State Model of Community:
 Whose Self-Determination?
 b. Responses to the Nation-State Model
 of Democracy and Community
 A. The Diaspora and a Common Narrative of
 Origin and Fate
 B. The Diaspora and Institutions of the
 C. Diasporic Participation and the Issue
 of Democracy Deficit
 D. Institutional Arrangements for the
 Community of Stakeholders: The Avenues
 of Participation
 1. To Vote or Not to Vote
 2. To Be or Not to Be a Card-Carrying
 3. Diasporic Participation: A Caution
 E. Institutional Arrangements for the Community
 of Stakeholders: The Avenues of Protection
 1. Diasporic Jurisdiction
 2. Diasporic Jurisdiction Compared with
 Passive Personality Jurisdiction
 F. Institutional Arrangements for the
 Community of Stakeholders: The Role of the
 Diaspora in Constitutional Settlement in
 Post-Conflict Societies


A number of countries have set up departments, either within their foreign ministries (2) or as independent cabinet-level offices, (3) with the task of defining and managing the relationship between the homeland and its diaspora. (4) This trend is likely to grow, and at a faster speed. A number of facts inform the increasing interest shown by states and their governments in their diasporas. First, because of globalization and the increasing ease with which people circulate across national boundaries, there are many more citizens and former citizens of states living outside the homeland. The sheer size of the diaspora has caused many states to take note and to develop an interest in their citizens or former citizens residing abroad.

Second, and even more importantly, the communication revolution has made it easier for those citizens or former citizens to maintain interest in and contact with their former homeland. This interest from the diaspora triggers a corresponding interest from the homeland--whether to reinforce or preserve cultural identity, facilitate repatriation, or tap the economic potential of the diaspora. Third, in relation to many countries, especially developing countries, their diasporas, often residing in developed western countries, have considerable financial and political clout. Home governments seek to define and manage the relationship between the diaspora and homeland in a manner intended to minimize the possibility of organized challenge to the regime in power from, or with the help of, the diaspora, while at the same time enhancing the vital financial contribution of the diaspora to the economies of those countries. The strategy may include positive incentives, as well as political intimidation of vocal opponents residing abroad. (5)

But this mutual interest among diasporas and homelands has raised a number of significant issues about membership and belonging. What precisely is the nature of diasporic membership that is desired or cultivated, and how does it fit in with (or undermine) the idea of belonging that has been a hallmark of the state system--the primary defining feature of which is citizenship? Does the diaspora--homeland relationship open up new forms of community and peoplehood worth cultivating, or does it undermine the possibility of developing any community of character and depth?

Processes of globalization, especially the impact of new communication technologies and the large movement of people across national boundaries, have required rethinking a number of concepts that have played a central role in political and legal thought for a considerable length of time--concepts such as community, the nature and sources of legal and political rights and obligations, the sources of jurisdictional and enforcement authority, and the like. In the age of cyber-communication, when one can instantaneously link to and commune with others across territorial boundaries, should the notion of physical space (geography) continue to be seen as central to the formation and cultivation of political communities? To the extent that political communities are to be sources of legal and political obligations, what counts as the relevant community in this globalized cyber-world?

The frame of reference for these questions has been either the international community (cosmopolitanism) or national territorial communities (nationalism). For cosmopolitans, the international community provides the point of reference and a source of allegiance and obligation. Cosmopolitans view the obligation to humankind as one's highest obligation. (6) Thus, for example, the push for universal jurisdiction of certain crimes is premised on the proposition that those crimes injure all members of the international community, not simply the immediate victims who happen to be citizens of this or that country or within the jurisdiction of this or that nation. (7) For the nationalists, allegiances are owed to the people who are comembers of political communities, almost always constituted as territorial states. (8) Thus, for the nationalist, universal jurisdiction is inconsistent with the notion of a world of territorial communities. The nation-state is the highest point of legal and political obligation. (9) International legal theorizing has essentially mapped the two poles, although nationalists still dominate the field.

This Article argues that the diaspora-homeland relationship offers another point of departure for understanding how communities are formed and transformed, how legal obligation and allegiances develop and are altered, and generally, how a people constitutes itself both within and across territorial borders. Indeed, the relationship between diasporas and homelands may suggest how to bridge between the claims of cosmopolitans (that all humans are members and citizens of one human community) and the territorialist approach of nationalists (the state is the most relevant actor in the international realm).

Diasporas are "outside the state but inside the people." (10) Thus, the diaspora-homeland relationship affirms part of the cosmopolitan intuition that the territorial state is no longer, if ever, the only relevant source of peoplehood. But the relationship also counsels that meaningful allegiances and obligations will have to be worked out in the context of narratives of specific history of common sympathy and origin.

This Article is organized in a manner that facilitates a systematic and orderly inquiry into the issues raised in Part I--the relationship between diasporas and homelands, and what that relationship suggests about the nature of communities and peoplehood in the era of globalization and the communication revolution. Part II explores the general issue of membership in a community. The distinctiveness of communities and peoples depends on some form of closure and on their ability to control and distribute the social good of membership. It briefly explores how membership is or should be allocated. Part II also makes a preliminary observation as to what that mode of allocation would mean for the diaspora-homeland relationships.

Part III explores in some detail the nature of peoplehood--the various understandings of what it means to be a people. "We the people" is a phrase that serves as the opening words of two of the most famous constitutive documents currently in force--the U.S. Constitution and the UN Charter. This Part examines the multiple understandings of what it means to be a people so as to prepare the ground for an assessment of what version of peoplehood describes more fully and accurately the relationships and connections between diasporas and homelands. Part IV then gives a short account of how diasporas can be seen as part of we the people of the homeland and, yet, do not comfortably fit the two reigning notions of peoplehood described in Part III: national (political) peoplehood and ethnocultural peoplehood. Diasporas, on the one hand, exemplify the transitional movement--the paradigmatic "Other" of the nation-state--while paradoxically also assuming the nation-state for their very existence and coherence. The Part then argues that there is a need for a new theory of peoplehood that is capable of capturing this paradox.

Part V explores the struggles and contests between diasporas and homeland governments to define who is a member of "the people" of the homeland. While governments often see diasporas as the Other of the nation-state, diasporas see themselves as inside the people, though outside the territory. Although the relationship between diasporas and homelands has been by and large outside the concern of traditional international law, there was a period (the interwar period) when international law briefly turned its attention to that relationship. This Part turns to that era to see what it teaches about the relationship between modern-day diasporas and homelands.

Part VI develops a theory of peoplehood based on the notion of a community of stakeholders. The idea of stakeholders, this Article argues, gives a descriptively and normatively defensible evaluation of the relationship between modern diasporas and homelands. The Part then puzzles through the institutional implications of the notion of peoplehood developed and defended therein. Institutional arrangements are evaluated from two angles: their openness to allow all stakeholders (including those that reside in a host state) to participate in the life of the community, and their capacity to provide protection to all stakeholders (including those outside the territorial limit of the homeland) when they are in need of such protection. As an example of the latter, the value of what this Article calls "diasporic jurisdiction" is explored. Finally, the Part briefly examines the role of diasporas in constitutional settlement in severely fractured societies. The battle in these societies is often nothing less than how to define and redefine the people. And the role of the diaspora in that process has been crucial, for good or for ill.

Part VII concludes by noting that the version of community that can be worked out of the relationship between diasporas and homelands can act as a bridge between two aspects of people's existence in this globalized world--national attachment and cosmopolitan sentiment.


Membership in a political community, or any other community is, as Michael Walzer argues, "a social good." (11) By "social good," Walzer simply means that the good has "shared meanings" because its "conception and creation are social processes." (12) Its meaning is understood within groups and its value is fixed "by our work and conversation." (13) And like any other social good, membership is distributed and may be the concern of distributive justice. (14) The distinctiveness of communities depends on some form of closure and the members' ability to have a say in how this social good--one that may be considered to be a primary social good (15)--is distributed to potential or would-be members. Generally, membership in political communities has been premised on the existence of geography that can be closed off. (16) In terms of the nation-state, the link between land and people has been taken to be a crucial feature of community and identity. (17) Indeed, the social good of membership is so linked to territory and the nation-state that people "consider it a great misfortune to be 'stateless."' (18)

How membership in national political communities should be allocated has been a subject of intense debate and scholarly investigation. (19) But the discussion has often been limited to the relationship between a host country and its immigrant residents (noncitizen permanent or temporary residents, or undocumented aliens (20)) or would-be immigrants (those seeking to enter into that territorial community). (21) In relation to the first, the issue has often been whether citizenship should be required for full membership in a political community. What does a theory of just political membership suggest as to what a state ought to allow noncitizen residents to participate in? That is, what sorts of membership are implied by theories of justice (just membership) and democracy (democratic sovereignty)? While some commentators have argued that citizenship is the basis of full membership and that the territorial community decides the conditions under which full membership is granted, (22) others have claimed that what is consistent with a theory of democracy and justice is not citizenship, but "the principle that those who are subject to the law should also be its authors." (23) A theory of just membership, according to this view, will imply full participation by noncitizens (residents) in the origination of rules and regulations to which they are subject. (24)

With regard to the second issue, the question has been whether there are any moral or legal duties that would require territorial units to admit those in need of shelter and sustenance or whether every territorial community has the unfettered right to refuse admission to anyone outside its territory for any reason at all. Again, some commentators argue that theories of democracy and justice would grant territorial units an unfettered right to accept or reject outsiders on any ground whatsoever, (25) while others suggest that a theory of justice would require territorial units to admit at least certain of the people that seek to join the political community. (26) The issue of which ones among the many that seek admission ought to be allowed in is often a moving target. (27)

At any rate, the two issues just outlined deal only with the rights of immigrants or would-be immigrants in relation to host countries or countries of destination. So, to the extent that scholars explore the question of we the people, they often do so in relation to the host land or would-be host land.

As noted earlier, this Article goes in the opposite direction, exploring a relationship that has been almost totally neglected (at least by legal scholars), but one that would shed light on the nature of political communities and the sources of legal and political obligations in the era of globalization: the relationship between diasporas and homelands or countries of origin. (28) The issue becomes more interesting and more difficult when there is deep disagreement between the diaspora and the government of the homeland about the identity and future of the homeland. The relationship between diaspora and homeland in this sense is often similar to the relationship between universities and their alumni. In both cases, the dispute is often about the identity of a former home that has played and continues to play a central role in the lives of people. (29)

While the relationship between host land and immigrants (or would-be immigrants) is different from the relationship between homeland and diaspora in a number of ways, the two raise the same fundamental question: how a primary social good (membership) is distributed, and thus how communities constitute and reconstitute themselves to remain "communities of character." (30)

Perhaps it could be argued that the notion of protecting communities of character cannot be raised with the same intensity in the relationship between diasporas and homelands as it would be between host lands and immigrants or would-be immigrants. This is so, it might be argued, because immigrants or would-be immigrants are more likely to be strangers to the culture and value system of the host land, such that it would be reasonable for existing members of the host land to fear that their uncontrolled membership would transform the character of the community. Diasporas, on the other hand, are no strangers to the values and cultures of their homelands, and thus the fear of strangers transforming the community cannot have the same saliency. Although true to some degree, this observation does not capture fully the nature of the relationship between diasporas and homelands. First, to some extent, diasporas are estranged from their homeland. Some members of the diaspora might have left because of dissatisfaction with the political or cultural life of the homeland. Their departure indicates an estrangement of sorts. Second, even if such estrangement was not the source of their emigration, they are likely to have developed cultural, political, and economic belief systems rooted in their new homes, belief systems that may be at odds with the belief systems in the homeland. Third, many of the diasporas might have lived outside the homeland for a long time, and the homeland may have changed significantly during that period. Their image of the homeland might therefore be at odds with the reality prevailing in their old country. (31) Fourth, in some circumstances, individuals within diasporas might not even have lived in the homeland at all, either because they were born outside the country or the new homeland was established after their departure.

The point is not to argue that diasporas are, therefore, strangers to the homeland in the full sense of the term, but rather to note that the issue of membership raised in regard to the relationship between diasporas and homelands is not qualitatively different from that raised by the relationship between host land and would-be immigrants. They are both about communal self-determination and the circumstances that threaten to undermine the capacity to achieve it. (32)


At bottom, the relationship between diasporas and homelands, whether in the course of agreement or disagreement between the former and governmental authorities of the latter, raises the issue of who constitutes we the people--whether for this or that purpose we the people of the homeland ought to include diasporas. And if so, in relation to what activities or arenas of action would that be appropriate? And what are the consequences of thinking of diasporas as members of the homeland for this or that purpose?

As noted earlier, we the people is the opening phrase of two of the most famous constitutive documents currently in force. The UN Charter, the founding document of the world body that was established in 1945, begins with "We the Peoples of the United Nations." (33) In this, the Charter was invoking the words of another constitutive document adopted more than 150 years earlier, the Constitution of the United States, which begins, "We the People of the United States." (34) Each document announces that we the people have come to "establish" certain things (constitutional order in the case of the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations in the case of the UN Charter), even as it simultaneously constitutes the very "we" that is meant to act in a particular way. In that sense, the two political/legal documents are performative in nature. They constitute that which they declare already exists. (35) Writing about the invocation of we the people to establish the U.S. constitutional order, Edmund Morgan observes, "[t]he very existence of such a thing as the people, capable of acting to empower, define, and limit a previously non-existent government required a suspension of disbelief. History recorded no such action." (36)

What is designated by the notion we the people? As a conceptual matter, the phrase is ambiguous, but at a minimum it suggests the existence of an entity that is more than the aggregation of individuals. It indicates the existence of institutions and historical narratives that link these individuals into a corporate body capable of agency. (37) But this does not resolve the ambiguity altogether, for there may be different institutional links and hence different arrangements and different levels of agency. The notion of people in the American Declaration of Independence (38) is surely different from that in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, (39) for the institutional links and historical narratives that tied individuals into an entity called the people differed. Phrases such as "the Jewish people," "the Armenian people," or "Indigenous people" demonstrate a still more radically different understanding of the people.

There are at least four different senses in which the phrase the people seems to have been invoked. The first and the most common use is as a substitute for a territorial political unit. Thus, we the people in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution might be understood to refer to the various confederated states ("we the states") that were coming together to form a "more perfect union." (40) The same phrase in the UN Charter clearly refers to the various nation-states assembled in San Francisco to found the United Nations, rather than the undifferentiated people of the world. Indeed, the plural, "peoples," indicates that the phrase is a substitute for "we the nation-states." (41) The concluding paragraph of the preamble makes that clear. (42) John Rawls uses the term peoples in his book The Law of Peoples in a way that is similar to the Charter, to refer to the various political communities in the world. (43) Rawls's peoples are politically organized societies and their form of organization is essentially statehood. Peoplehood in this first sense is a marker of a political entity that is territorially delimited, not so much a nation (for there may be many nations within that political unit), but a political "community of character," as Walzer would say. (44)

A second use of the phrase refers to the citizens of a particular political community. Thus, when an American politician invokes the phrase "the American people," he or she means to emphasize the institutions and narratives that link citizen inhabitants as one entity. It is never clear what size of the inhabitants (majority, supermajority, a few thousand?) the speakers have in mind when they invoke the authority of the American people. But whatever size is thought to justify the invocation, the constitutive narrative of the notion of the American people is American citizenship, as would be French citizenship when the phrase "the French people" is invoked. (45) The People in this second sense is not a mere collection of individuals that happen to occupy the territorial unit we call the United States or France, but citizens as a corporate entity. This is peoplehood inscribed by citizenship. (46)

A third notion of peoplehood refers to all inhabitants of a political community. What organizes and inscribes individuals as a people here is not citizenship, but the fact of sharing a specific territorial unit and being subject to the jurisdiction of that unit. Thus, the reference to "people" in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution has been understood and interpreted to include all residents (and certainly includes permanent residents) within the territorial limit of the United States, and are thus subject to its jurisdiction. (47) The notion of people here is jurisdictional. (48)

The above three senses in which the phrase the people is invoked are tied to territorial (geographic) political communities. This may be referred to as political peoplehood defined by territorial limits. Although the compositional criterion may vary from one to the other, defined territory is constant in all.

There is a fourth sense of peoplehood which appears not to be tied to the notion of territorial political community. Thus, "the Jewish people" refers to a cultural or religious peoplehood rather than to a territorial political community (at least until the establishment of Israel). One could say the same thing about the Armenian people, at least until the establishment of the Armenian state. Here, ethnic, racial, or religious narratives constitute the people. This notion of people may be referred to as ethno-cultural peoplehood, in which "the affectivity criterion" determines membership. (49)

As discussed later, the two categories--ethno-cultural and political peoplehood--are not totally distinct. They sometimes overlap. Perhaps the policy of the government of Germany, until relatively recently, showed that overlap. The official policy of the German government was that we the people provisionally included citizens and residents of other countries that possessed German "blood." (50) Individuals were entitled to claim German citizenship and join the territorial community called Germany. One could also view the policy of Israel that allows (and encourages) Jews from all over the world to immigrate to the State of Israel as an example of the overlap between political and ethno-cultural peoplehoods. (51) Perhaps Walzer was thinking of Israel when he claimed that "nations look for countries because in some deep sense they already have countries." (52)

But as a general matter, the relationship between modern diasporas and homelands does not fit either category clearly or cleanly. On the one hand, diasporas' links to homelands appear more cultural than political, somewhat similar to what Arthur Isak Applbaum calls the "anthropological sense of peoplehood." (53) On the other hand, many diasporas often seem to view themselves as part of the people in the political sense, at times encouraged by homeland governments. (54) They seek not only to affirm cultural, ethnic, or religious affiliations with the homeland (an affirmation of identity), but also to participate in the shaping of the economic and political life of the homeland, sometimes positively but other times negatively. (55) Here peoplehood is not just a matter of common sentiment and shared cultural outlook; it is also a matter of "the capacity for shared agency," (56) which Arthur Isak Applbaum refers to as "normative peoplehood." (57)

In the era of communication technologies that allow wide and instant contact across the globe, the power of diasporas to intervene in and shape the political and economic life of the homeland is increasing in significance. The narratives of political and ethnocultural peoplehoods seem inadequate to describe the character of the community imagined by the relationship between diasporas and homeland. Diasporas are not members of the political community of the homeland in the traditional territorial sense, but neither are they strangers to it. The categories of members and strangers in the traditional sense do not seem to capture the complicated relationship between diasporas and homelands. (58) They are not simply part of an anthropological people, but neither do they seem to manifest a full capacity of agency in relation to the homeland. That is, the link between the diaspora and the people of the homeland is not simply anthropological, nor does it seem fully normative. It occupies the ambiguous middle that some have referred to as "the diasporic space." (59) It is to capture this ambiguous space that some have referred to diasporas as "outside the state but inside the people." (60)

The diaspora-homeland relationship also defies another very popular category often employed to classify disputes and relationships in international legal and political discourse--nationalist (localist) versus cosmopolitan (universalist). A nationalist or localist takes local or national communities as the proper venues for allegiances and commitments, while a universalist believes that the highest allegiance ought to be to the community of humankind. (61) But diasporas seem neither members of the homeland (owed special allegiances and commitments) nor strangers to it (with no allegiance or commitment). And to the extent that universalism and localism are meant to exhaust the nature of commitments and relationships people owe one another, they do not capture the diaspora-homeland relationship. (62) However, it is complex relationships like this that will increasingly define international relations and international law itself.

This suggests that there is a need for a theory that captures the notion of peoplehood in both its anthropological and normative sense--a theory that is sensitive to the complex relationship not fully captured by the accounts offered by nationalists and universalists. Such a theory must also suggest the institutional and practical implications of adopting the notion of peoplehood implied by the complex relationship between diasporas and homelands. It is the ambiguous middle ground--neither strangers nor members, neither local nor cosmopolitan, neither political nor ethno-cultural--that is increasingly defining our world. Finding the language to capture it and to respond institutionally to it is going to be the challenge of legal and political theory in the twenty-first century.


A. Understanding the Notion of the Diaspora

Diasporas have existed throughout human history. (63) The notion of diaspora (64) refers to groups of individuals or communities who carry an image of a homeland that is separate from the host land in which they reside. (65) The image of the homeland could be real (an existing country) or imagined (e.g. homelands for Sikhs, Kurds, Chechens, and Sri Lankan Tamils (66)). The fellow-feeling or common origin that members of the diaspora believe they have is often reinforced by others' perception of them--diasporas perceive themselves and are perceived by others as belonging to a national community. (67)

Diasporas come in many forms. Some members of the diaspora are forced out of their homeland for religious, cultural, or political reasons, while others may have simply left to seek a better life for themselves and their descendants. Some may not even have moved at all, but the border shifted either through imperial and colonial conquest or the break-up of nation-states. (68) Some consider the host land a temporary stopping place, while others may be permanent residents and even citizens of the host country. In whichever way they are constituted, diasporas possess one common feature: although they have made the host land their place of residence (temporarily or permanently), they carry an image of a homeland to which they believe they belong and in which they consider to have a legitimate stake. Imagining is an important defining feature of all diasporas. Diasporas imagine a homeland that is separate from the host land, even as they imagine the homeland-host land space as one and continuous. One author sought to capture the diasporic space this way: "[W]here the country of origin becomes a source of identity, the country of residence a source of rights, and the emerging transnational space, a space of political action combining the two or more countries." (69)

Not only do diasporas carry an image of a homeland (imagined or otherwise), they often also seek to play a role in the economic, cultural, and political life of that homeland. When the interests of the diaspora and that of the government of the homeland converge, there is often very little to worry about. Each party finds the other useful. Diasporas use the homeland as a source of cultural sustenance and pride, a kind of cultural refueling depot. (70) They may also find a favorable investment climate within their homeland. The government of the homeland may use the diaspora as a powerful lobby group in the host land, facilitating its economic and foreign policies vis-a-vis the host land or any other part of the world over which the host land has influence. (71) The diaspora may also be useful as a direct source of economic assistance, both in terms of remittance (72) and investment. (73) This is especially true in relation to poor developing countries whose diasporas live in rich, developed countries. It is, for example, reported that the Eritrean economy would be in more serious difficulty were it not for the remittance and other forms of economic assistance it receives from the Eritrean diaspora. (74)

Put simply, when diasporas and homeland governments see eye to eye on many issues, or when each is happy to use the other for its own purposes, the ambiguous diaspora-homeland relationship (the issue of membership) remains unexplored. However, when tensions exist between the two in terms of the image each has of the homeland and the future each envisions for it, then the appropriate level of involvement of the diaspora in the life of the country becomes an issue. Membership--who exactly we the people are and who speaks for the people--arises as a serious issue. Are members of the diaspora legitimate members of the political community of the homeland? Do they have rights in relation to the homeland that are not within the power of the government of the homeland "to give or deny?'' (75) And what might those rights be?

B. Diaspora as the "Paradigmatic Other" of the Nation-State: Identity and Otherness

In many ways the diaspora is the "paradigmatic Other of the nation-state." (76) Diasporas define themselves in contrast to the nation-state. While the nation-state conceives of peoplehood (the notion of "we") in territorial terms, the idea of the diaspora enacts a nonterritorial, traveling notion of peoplehood. While the nation-state conceives of legitimate political participation in essentially territorial terms, the notion of the diaspora tends to complicate that assumption by claiming a continuing and active stake in the homeland for those who have left the homeland either voluntarily or involuntarily. The diasporic phenomenon seriously challenges and renders ambiguous the specific notions of peoplehood, community, and belonging that have defined the nation-state. Diasporic interest in the homeland attempts to delink the tight relationship that peoplehood and community are thought to have with territory.

However, there is a paradox. While the notion of diaspora appears to be the paradigmatic Other of the nation-state, its existence and coherence is, in fact, premised on the existence of the nation-state. There are diasporas because there is a homeland or an imagined homeland, which often manifests itself in the form of a territorial state. In some sense, this paradox is a necessary feature of all identities. One defines oneself often in opposition to the Other. (77) The existence of the Other is a necessary condition for defining the boundary of the self. This is the case whether the identity in question is individual, communal, or institutional. All identities are defined relationally. (78)

To summarize, the diaspora is viewed simultaneously as the negation of the nation-state and one that must assume the existence of the nation-state for its coherence. (79) But the narratives of political peoplehood that anchor themselves in physical geography are not adequate models to describe the notion of peoplehood that the diasporic narrative seeks to constitute. A narrative that anchors itself in and is circumscribed by the idea of physical geography will be unable to capture the travelling nature of communities represented by diasporas, whether ancient or modern.

C. The Diaspora and Ethno-cultural Peoplehood

While the notion of ethno-cultural peoplehood captures the nonterritorial and traveling nature of communities, it is no better than the notion of political peoplehood as a means of explaining the relationship between diasporas and their homelands. The narratives that constitute ethno-cultural peoplehood often center on religion or ethnicity, and thus do not offer a full account of the relationship between modern diasporas and homelands. This is so for a number of reasons. First, for many modern diasporas the link to homeland is not primarily based on any specific ethnic or religious affiliation, but rather on a relationship to a land, its political history, and its societal culture. Take the Ethiopian diaspora as an example. The members of the diaspora belong to different ethnic and religious groups. The constitutive narrative is a narrative of a land of many faiths and ethnic and linguistic groups, and each religious, ethnic, and linguistic group links itself to the land and its history (though the history may be contested among those groups). Put simply, the constitutive narrative of the Ethiopian diaspora is a narrative of multiplicity.

Second, contrary to what ethno-cultural peoplehood would suggest, some diasporas (the Ethiopian diaspora, for example) seek not only a communion over cultural and religious symbols and rituals, but a desire to participate in the political affairs of the political community they call homeland. Individuals within the Ethiopian diaspora have organized political parties; supported political parties which were organized within (and are based in) the homeland; and campaigned before the legislative and executive bodies of their respective host lands so as to isolate and put pressure on the governments in power that they view as illegitimate, or at least dictatorial, or to support initiatives that they believe are in the interest of the nation. Put simply, the Ethiopian diaspora seeks to expand the notion of political membership beyond the territorial boundaries and, in the process, to affirm its belonging to we the people of Ethiopia. In this, the Ethiopian diaspora is not very different from many other modern diasporas. (80)

D. The Significance of the Diaspora for a New Theory of Peoplehood and Membership

Even though neither the traditional notion of political peoplehood nor the idea of ethno-cultural peoplehood fully captures the complex relationship between modern diasporas and homelands, it is clear that the issue will increasingly be an important one. In the age of globalization and the communication revolution--when physical space is becoming less crucial as a definer of communities and the contours of participation, but, on the other hand, where the notion of communities and local allegiances are viewed as antidotes to the dislocating effects of globalization--the relationship between diasporas and homelands is increasingly moving from the periphery to the center. Perhaps that relationship holds the key to understanding and building institutions that can link and hold in equilibrium the universalizing (homogenizing) and localizing (fragmenting) tendencies of globalization.

There are, of course, other more specific reasons for the increasing attractiveness of the diaspora-homeland relationship for scholars, as well as policymakers. First, in relation to developing countries, many of which tend to be politically and economically weak or unstable, the sheer size of the diaspora and its economic and political clout have often made it a central player in the life of the homeland. (81) That role is unlikely to diminish in the near future, for good or for ill. This, of course, raises the rather important question as to who we the people are for the purpose of authoring laws and establishing institutions of the homeland. Democracy, we are often reminded, requires that the people be the originators of the laws and institutions that govern their lives. (82) In what sense would it be legitimate to think of members of a diaspora as being part of the "we" of the homeland for purposes of authoring or originating the laws and institutions that are to govern the homeland and for the purpose of devising policies affecting the homeland?

It may be the case that at some level the desire of members of a diaspora to play a significant role in the imagining of their homeland is inversely related to how well the particular diasporic community is integrated in the life of the host land. The more a community feels marginalized (or discriminated against), the more likely it will seek to invest energy and resources in the cultivation and imagining of its former homeland. In this sense, the strength of a diaspora's bond with the homeland may partly be related to the weakness of its bond with the host land. (83) But this is not always, nor even often, the case.

The second way in which the relation between homeland and diaspora is moving to the center is as a result of the diminishment or disaggregation of the authority of the nation-state. Power is migrating from the nation-state in two directions: upward to supernational institutions and power centers and downward to the constituent parts of the nation-state, be they public or private. (84) As a result of various globalizing phenomena, such as the communication revolution, the notion of policeable borders--"the idea of a self-enclosed and autochthonous territory over which the demos governs" (85)--is increasingly challenged. The diaspora-homeland relationship is a clear example of politics beyond nation-state borders--the globalization of politics. But it is a globalization of a specific kind. It is a politics beyond the nation-state that affirms a particular idea of a nation-state. It is one that seeks to reconstitute we the people by stripping it of two conditions that have traditionally been used to define it: territory and citizenship. And the communication revolution, which is increasingly allowing members of the diaspora to communicate (and organize) with citizens of the homeland almost instantaneously and at increasingly reduced cost, will continue to encourage more active participation by members of the diaspora in the political and economic affairs of the homeland.

As noted earlier, if one wishes to explore the notions of democracy, community, and legality in the age of globalization, then exploring the relationship between diaspora and homeland may provide one of the best vehicles. As one commentator put it, "[d]iasporas are the exemplary communities of the transnational moment." (86) One may add that they are also exemplary communities that affirm the nation-state. The paradox of globalization is perfectly captured by diaspora-homeland relationships. And the mediation between universalism and localism may have its seed in this unique relationship--a relationship that affirms localism by attempting to redefine (extend) the local.
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Title Annotation:I. Introduction through IV. Diasporas as Part of We the People, p.963-992
Author:Addis, Adeno
Publication:Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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