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Title: Relations and agency in a transnational context : the Afghan diaspora and its engagements for change in Afghanistan
Author: Fischer, Carolin
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 785X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis is about the lives and civic engagements of Afghans in Germany and the UK. It shows how Afghans living in these two countries relate to Afghanistan, and to what extent they engage in transnational action aimed at promoting change there. In particular, it explores the emergence of diasporic communities and how members exercise agency as development actors in Afghanistan. The research rests on a qualitative case study conducted among Afghan populations in Germany and the UK. Semi-structured interviews and participant observation were primary methods of data collection. Relational sociology is used to capture emerging social identities, patterns of social organisation and forms of social engagement. A first notable finding is that Afghan populations abroad are fractured and cannot be seen as a united diaspora. People tend to coalesce in narrowly defined subgroups rather than under a shared national identity. Second, Afghanistan remains a crucial reference point, notwithstanding fragmented social organisation. Home country attachments tend to be tied to a desire for change and development in the country. Third, despite these shared concerns, transnational engagements are typically carried out by small groups and directed towards confined social spheres. Although people may take action in the name of an imagined Afghan community or an imaginary Afghanistan, this imagined community does not provide a basis for social mobilisation. Thus Afghans do not act as a cohesive diaspora. Fourth, transnational engagements are often a response to the specificities of the social environments in which people are embedded, notably their host countries. The findings show that a relational approach can specify how different dimensions of people’s social identities drive social action and are shaped in interaction with various elements of their social context. Such an actor-centred perspective helps to improve our understanding of how members of diasporas come to engage with their countries of origin.
Supervisor: Bakewell, Oliver Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Livelihoods (refugees) ; Migration ; Transnationalism and diaspora ; Ethnic minorities and ethnicity ; Civil society ; Development and Refugees (see also Sociology) ; Diaspora ; Afghanistan ; Transnationalism ; Civic Engagement ; Structure and Agency