Todd Drummond (American Councils for International Education)
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- Room B16
- Saturday 12 October, 11:00-12:45 (UTC+0)
Authors:Alexander Maier (Columbia University)
Yan Matusevich (CUNY Graduate Center)
Paper long abstract:
The hardening of authoritarian rule in Tajikistan and the Tajik government's continuing crackdown on civil society has led to an unprecedented movement of Tajiks seeking asylum in Europe, most notably in Poland and Germany. Media outlets have portrayed these arrivals as a refugee community fleeing persecution due to their affiliation with the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, but to-date no in-depth study of their motivations, trajectories, and backgrounds has been conducted. Drawing on qualitative research with members of the Tajik refugee communities in Poland, Germany and Austria, we go beyond existing assumptions about this particular diaspora and examine their reasons for leaving Tajikistan, the paths that led them to Europe, and their migration histories.
The asylum seeking process requires refugees to adopt a narrative of collective victimhood that leaves little room for diverse and multifaceted stories of exile. The migrant-refugee dichotomy does not do justice to the heterogeneous motivations pushing certain groups of Tajiks to seek asylum in Europe. Similarly, diasporas need to project coherence and unity in order to gain recognition, which can conceal internal tensions and contradictions.
The categories of "refugee" and "diaspora" can be a double-edged sword. In the case of Tajik asylum seekers in Europe, these categories can provide legal and political protection while at the same time marking these individuals as dissidents and thereby ex post facto turning them into political exiles whose return would put them in danger, even in cases when they were not initially fleeing persecution. This creates an ethical challenge. How can researchers portray the complexity of Tajik asylum seekers without delegitimizing their grounds for asylum and feeding into anti-refugee narratives in host countries, or supporting the Tajik government's rhetoric that paints refugees as terrorists? We will draw on in-depth interviews and focus groups with members of the Tajik refugee community to illustrate these issues.
Author:Ahmad Javeed Ahwar (Nazarbayev University )
Paper long abstract:
The topic of my (individual) conference paper: "The role of Afghanistani diaspora associations in the reproduction of ethnic identities and the creation of a new sense of home in Hamburg-Germany"
My paper provides new empirical evidence steming from my five months of ethnographic fieldwork on the Afghanistani diaspora community in Hamburg-Germany. During the fieldwork carried between August and December 2017, I learnt that Afghanistani diaspora associations attempt to re-route themselves in the new environment — Germany. By doing so, they choose not to act under the umbrella of a united Afghanistani community but to mobilize separately along the ethnolinguistic lines.
My research findings suggest that quite opposite to popular believe, the identity "being Afghanistani" only exists for outsiders and foreign researchers, while within the community, ethnicity and language speak louder than nationality. Very particularly, the ever growing division between Pashtun and non-Pashtuns refers to the longstanding historical disputes over the distribution of power as well as recent political hegemony of Pashtuns in Kabul. During my ethnographic fieldwork, I learnt that each diaspora organization acts as a factory of identity-making imposing harsh in-and-out group sanctions fixating membership in ethnolinguistic clubs.
Doing more than 100 ethnographic interviews with members of different ethnolinguistic associations, mosques, and cultural experts, I came to know that these associations channel their aid to their co-ethnolinguistic communities in Afghanistan. Realizing the failure of Kabul government in providing educational and governance services in Hazara and Tajik areas they invest immensely in building schools and transporting knowledge to Afghanistan. These associations also provide a platform where Afghan issues can be discussed and analyzed. Simply put, they make people in Hamburg to think and act towards changing situations in Afghanistan and help create a vague sense of home.
Regarding the wider relevance of my finding, I believe that this case study unravels the complexities of diaspora communities in Europe or North Atlanthic world and attempts to challenge the outsiders' perspective about them. Furthermore, considering that the diasporas functions beyond their home governments' immediate pressures and interventions, they can excercise their freedom of expression more effeciently and their contribution to transforming the status quo in their home countries can be of great value.
Authors:Saltanat Liebert (Virginia Commonwealth University)
David Webber (Virginia Commonwealth University)
Paper long abstract:
There is a growing body of literature, which argues that immigrants become more religious after migration due to isolation, marginalization, and difficulties adjusting to the new culture. This research explores whether Muslim immigrants become more devout after migrating to the United States through the case study of Kyrgyz migrants in the United States. Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet country, was selected as an example, because it has a majority Muslim population, which was largely secular during the Soviet era. Due to the fact that the Soviet government banned all religious information and knowledge sources, the population at large does not have a solid background in Islam and is not well versed in its theological foundation. We, therefore, also examined where Muslim immigrants from this community turn for knowledge about Islam and which online sources (if any) they peruse. The data are drawn from a survey of Kyrgyz migrants in Chicago, IL, who self-identify as religious. In addition, a directed content analysis has been conducted to determine whether the online sources, which respondents reported using promulgate mainstream or extremist Islamist ideology. In conclusion, we offer policy recommendations to better integrate Muslim Americans in the American society and prevent radicalization in this community.
Author:António Eduardo Mendonça (Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
Paper long abstract:
This papers aims at presenting two Central Asian migrant communities in Portugal. The first one are the Kazakhstanis of the Upper Douro Valley, in the north: in this area, famous for the Port Wine production but facing the challenge of rural depopulation, migrant communities become the main source of labor for the vineyards and the apple orchards. The second community are the Uzbekistanis of the region of Leiria, north of Lisbon - whose small businesses are part of a russian-speaking local building industry. Based on extensive fieldwork and in-deep interviews of pioneers of both groups, this paper tries to retrace their life stories as migrants and as communities, from the initial decision to leave their home countries, in the late 1990s or beginning of the 2000s, to the twists and turns of the migration and the integration processes. As a Conclusion, I will compare the presence of Central Asian migrants in several Western European countries and discuss the perspectives of this migration trend.