Diasporas in Norway 1

Diasporas in Norway Part I

Worldwide, domestic and foreign policy are becoming more intertwined. We see it when exile groups – sometimes referred to as diasporas – try to influence public opinion and the authorities in their new home countries. We also see it when exile groups continue their domestic strife in new surroundings, such as when Turks and Kurds have clashed in fights in Germany. Or when a demonstration by an exile group leads to another group’s counter-demonstration. Norway has become part of this picture.

  • What is a diaspora?
  • What types of diasporas do we find?
  • How do we see diasporas in Norwegian society?
  • What challenges do the changes create for Norwegian foreign policy?

Conversely, we also see how Norwegian “enclaves” abroad – Norwegian embassies, Norwegian “small communities” or Norwegian property – come “in the line of fire” when the Norwegian authorities, media, companies or others have done something or expressed something that groups abroad dislike ( cf. caricature dispute‚Ķ).

2: What is a diaspora?

Diaspora is an ancient social and political phenomenon. The term was originally used to describe the Jewish diaspora – Jews who lived outside their original settlements. Bokm√•lsordboka (1986) defines the diaspora as “a group of a religious community that lives scattered ashore with a different main religion, especially about Jews.” Norwegian illustrated dictionary ( Kunnskapsforlaget, 1993) expands the definition and describes diasporas as religious or national minorities in foreign environments .
Diaspora is often defined as a group that has left their home country, sometimes under traumatic circumstances. People leave their homes and countries for many reasons, including: due to conflicts, to seek work, to improve trade opportunities, or to colonize other areas.

To be defined as a diaspora, a group must have a common myth about its homeland , idealize it and be willing to support it. Such a group must also have plans to withdraw , have a strong ethnic identity (strong sense of ethnic cohesion), sometimes a problematic relationship with the host country and show solidarity with its diaspora members in other countries. Another important factor is the degree of organization of this group, both in the new host country and internationally. According to such an approach, not all ethnic groups abroad can be considered as diasporas, only those who meet the above requirements.

Others further describe the diaspora – as any group of immigrants who maintain a material or emotional connection to their country of origin (home country). But they adapt to the limitations and opportunities of the country they choose to settle in – the new host country.

3: Historical and modern diasporas

The political significance is not only due to the role that diasporas have played historically in shaping today’s society. The rapid emergence of modern, new diasporas also plays a role.

In terms of historical diasporas, according to computergees.com, the Chinese diaspora is the largest, with 35 million people of Chinese descent spread around the world. The Indian diaspora consists globally of 9 million people, the Jewish and Roman diaspora (gypsies) have 8 million “members” each. The Armenian includes 5.5 million people, the Greek 4 million, the German 2.5 and the Druze (Middle East) 1 million.

Of the modern diasporas, the most important are the African-American (25 million), the Kurdish (14 million), the Irish (10 million), the Italian (8 million), the Hungarian and the Polish (with 4.5 million each), the Turkish and Iranian (3.5 million), the Japanese (3 million) and the Lebanese (with 2.5 million).

New diasporas are those that are being established, and the most comprehensive list consists of 30 ethnic groups. The two largest groups on the list of new diasporas are the Russian diaspora in the post-Soviet space (outside Russia, but within the former Soviet Union), but also in Israel and Western Europe (25 million) and the Mexican diaspora that lives primarily in United States and Canada (20 million in total).

Some researchers believe that one should focus less on group affiliation and more on forms of expression, attitudes, demands and what diasporas do to put their case on the political agenda. Understood in this way, the diaspora is about claiming, articulating projects, formulating expectations, mobilizing energies and appealing to loyalties.

4: The political significance of diasporas

Far from all members of a diaspora are politically active – most often only a few play such a role. We like to talk about a core group of active. The rest are usually more passive and silent. However, the others can be mobilized, especially in crisis situations.

It is natural that such a historical, social and political phenomenon has aroused widespread interest among researchers and public debaters. The phenomenon has great political significance and is high on the political agenda, especially in countries where a large part of the population has roots from other countries.

Discussion of diasporas and their political significance is part of a larger policy area that includes not only migration and integration, but increasingly also conflict studies, security policy and foreign policy. In addition, the discussion about diasporas has ramifications for debate about the relationship between indigenous peoples, immigrant populations, minorities and majority populations. The political discussion about diasporas is partly also about their importance as a resource for both the sending and receiving country and not least about their loyalty to different political aspects of the new home country.

Diasporas in Norway 1

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