Diaspora Mobilisation in a Conflict Setting: The Emergence and Trajectories of Syrian Diaspora Mobilisation in Germany

Nora Ragab, UNU-MERIT

What started in Syria in 2011 as an initial peaceful movement of people demanding freedom, justice and democracy, has escalated into one of the world’s most dramatic humanitarian and security crises. Many observers argue that President Assad has effectively won the Syrian war and will most likely remain in power. Yet, resolving the conflicts within the broader Syrian society will be a long-term endeavour, heavily challenged by the fact that the sovereignty of the Syrian government continues to be contested and that the future of Syria’s displaced population, which accounts for almost half of the overall population, remains uncertain. One major factor towards reconstruction and reconciliation will be the fact that a sizeable part of Syria’s civil society will be engaging from abroad, as part of a Syrian diaspora. 

The last decades have witnessed a rising interest in studying the nexus between diasporas and conflict, since diaspora groups are increasingly recognised as important agents in the international political arena. Recent research on the diaspora conflict nexus has moved away from an impact-oriented analysis towards dealing with diaspora mobilisation as a process. It is therefore necessary to understand the various configurations in place that shape the nexus between diaspora mobilisation and conflicts both in the origin and destination countries.  

Using Syrian diaspora mobilisation in Germany as a case study, this PhD dissertation aims to shed light on the transnational embeddedness of diaspora mobilisation in conflict-settings. Based on 80 in-depth interviews with Syrian diasporic political entrepreneurs in Germany and participatory observation of selected diaspora activities, this thesis investigates how conflict dynamics in Syria, as well as factors in the destination country, influenced the process of transnational mobilisation of Syrian diaspora groups in Germany. The central argument of this dissertation is that diaspora mobilisation should be understood as a dynamic process in which structures and diaspora agents co-constitute each other. While structures do provide opportunities and constraints in the process of mobilisation, diaspora actors show considerable agency in shaping the transnational political reality, by individually and collectively negotiating the transnational political opportunity structures present in the mobilisation process. The dissertation, therefore, not only puts emphasis on the structural conditions of mobilisation, but also sheds light on the diverse contributions of diaspora actors to the transformation of conflicts in different locations



Venue: Virtual defence

Date: 24 April 2020

Time: 10:00 - 11:30


UNU-MERIT