Article from ROAPE Volume 29 Number 92
Globalisation From Below: Concep. Role of Diasporas
In the past both African Studies and Development Studies have ignored questions of the African Diaspora. This point was made by Zack-Williams back in 1995 but since then there has not been much work attempting to rectify this matter. In this article we put forward a framework for examining the role of diaspora in development. This centres on recognising that the formation of the African Diaspora has been intimately linked to the evolution of a globalised and racialised capitalism. While the linkages between capitalism, imperialism and displacement are dynamic we should avoid a simplistic determinism that sees the movements of African people as some inevitable response to the mechanisms of broader structures. The complexity of displacement is such that human agency plays an essential role and avoids the unhelpful conclusion of seeing Africans as victims. It is this interplay of structural forces and human agency that gives diasporas their shifting, convoluted and overlapping geometry. Having established that we examine the implications of a diasporic perspective for understanding the development potential of both Africans in diaspora and those who remain on the continent. We argue that both politically and economically the diaspora has an important part to play in contemporary social processes operating at an increasingly global scale. The key issues we address are embedded social networks in the diaspora, remittances and return, development organisations, religious networks, cultural dynamics, and political institutions. We conclude by suggesting where diasporic concerns will take us in the next few years.