Transnational Civic Engagement? Return to Somalia from Norway and the USA

Cindy Horst, Peace Research Institute Oslo

Somalis around the world organize themselves as active citizens not just engaged in local and national public affairs, but also transnationally: a considerable portion of Somali civic engagement is directed at societal concerns in Somalia. In recent years, such engagement has increasingly been accompanied by return to Somalia. This paper explores the implications of such return for understandings of civic engagement. Data was collected during fieldwork in Oslo, Minneapolis and three locations in the Somali region. The research indicates that returnees tend to be highly educated individuals who work in professional occupations. They are civically engaged in their communities in the host society, and have been living in the host country for significant periods. In most cases, return migration is not permanent but rather circular and temporary. While motivations to return vary, most of those returning indicate that they draw on different skills and resources they have gained during their stay abroad. The research furthermore explores tensions between returnees and those that remained in Somalia, partly caused by attitudes about the responsibility of diaspora Somalis to participate in 'rebuilding' Somalia.

About the speaker
Cindy Horst is Research Director and Research Professor in Migration and Refugee Studies at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Her current research interests include: mobility in conflict; diaspora; humanitarianism; refugee protection; (transnational) civic engagement; and theorizing on social transformation. She is particularly interested in methodological innovations that allow for critical and ethically conscious research engagement, through shared anthropology and multi-sited ethnography. Cindy is the author of Transnational Nomads: How Somalis cope with refugee life in the Dadaab camps of Kenya (Berghahn 2006). Her most recent publications include ‘Migrants as agents of development: Diaspora engagement discourse and practice in Europe’ (Ethnicities 2015), with Giulia Sinatti, and ‘Flight and Exile. Uncertainty in the Context of Forced Displacement’ (Social Analysis, 2015), with Katarzyna Grabska.

Venue: Conference room

Date: 28 February 2015

Time: 12:30 - 13:30


UNU-MERIT