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Title: For The Gambia, our homeland : the diaspora, development and politics
Author: Taal, S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 6027
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis aims to explore the potential of small diasporas to contribute to development and politics at 'home'. Thereby informing inter-disciplinary thinking at the intersection of migration studies, development studies and politics. I argue that where there is a discussion of diaspora's political engagement in the existing migration-development literature, it is either hidden behind the shield of 'development' or restricted to questions of violent conflict. The central claim of the thesis is that the migration-development nexus needs to address formal politics more explicitly. The Gambian diaspora are an interesting group to research because the country has not experienced violent conflict in recent years and the diaspora are making contributions to development at 'home'. However, they are also simultaneously seeking to intervene in homeland politics, which they view as another form of development contribution. This research is a multi-sited study conducted in The Gambia, UK, and US. This thesis is based on 24 interviews with 52 participants undertaken in The Gambia with elites, students, government officials, politicians, and return migrants between February 2013 and December 2014. 49 interviews with members of the Gambian diaspora in the UK and US, and 10 interviews with heads of Gambian diaspora associations in the UK. The four research questions in this thesis address (1) development interventions, (2) political interventions, (3) the responses to these interventions from The Gambia, and (4) the relationship between development, migration and politics. The data used to address them came primarily from the interviews, participant observation, textual and visual materials acquired from newspapers, social media, archives, and secondary sources in the academic and grey literatures. Qualitative coding techniques were used for thematic data analysis. The thesis concludes that the political activities of some members of the UK and US Gambian diaspora are inhibiting the ability of the diaspora as a whole to have any 'real' impact on national development. This is perpetuating the distrust between the homeland government and those outside the territory. Subsequently, development contributions are mainly focused on the family scale. Whilst these political interventions have some effects at 'home' they are only one component in a broader set of interventions seeking to change Gambian politics (alongside diplomatic efforts, structural economic forces and human rights lobbies for example) and their impact is constrained by the limited resources and capacities of those in the diaspora. Conceptually the thesis concludes that whilst it is useful to maintain the distinction between development and politics for the purpose of organizing the analysis, in practice the two are inseparable. The case that is being made in this thesis is that politics in The Gambia is an 'anti-development machine', as formal political engagement is a barrier to active development in the country. Thus, paradoxically it requires diasporans who are sincerely committed to the development of The Gambia to withdraw from politics, despite simultaneously arguing that improving the political process is a part of development. Two weeks before submitting this thesis, a Presidential election occurred in The Gambia, which dramatically changed the political context of the country and its diaspora. However, given the timing, it was impossible to re-write this thesis to take account of the election, though some comments have been added to the conclusion.
Supervisor: Page, B. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available