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Dynamics of diaspora

[photo]
The Institute for Migration Studies unveiled the results of the research in the presence of dignitaries, policymakers and the LAU community.

January 4, 2013—

Earlier this month, the Institute for Migration Studies (IMS) hosted a workshop to unveil the preliminary findings of its research project, “Home politics abroad: the role of the Lebanese diaspora in conflict, peace building and democratic development.”

“This research project seeks to understand what role the Lebanese diaspora plays in the politics of their ‘homeland’ and what is the role of ‘homeland’ politics in the Lebanese diaspora,” says Dr. Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss, assistant professor of political science and international affairs and a faculty member of IMS.

The study found that political parties in Lebanon have discovered that the diaspora is and wants to be engaged in homeland affairs and have responded by institutionalizing diaspora participation.

In addition, many diaspora state-like activities, such as donating money to build schools and roads, have proven to have short-term positive effects. Instead, they have been contributing to perpetuating the weakness of the Lebanese state which is something that goes against what many in the diaspora say they want: a strong Lebanon.

The research was limited to what it defined as ‘active diaspora;’ in other words, citizens of Lebanese heritage who express an interest in participating in Lebanese public life. The ambitious undertaking spanned three years and included over 300 in-depth interviews with various political, religious and civil society leaders in Lebanon, Australia, Canada and the United States. Its presentation took place in the presence of dignitaries, policymakers and the LAU community.

“It is important for us to share our preliminary findings and include policymakers in the process,” says Dr. Paul Tabar, IMS director and associate professor of sociology. “Receiving feedback is critical for us as we move forward with the publication of the findings,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of the Canadian International Research Development Centre (IDRC) that funded the research project Ambassador of Canada Hilary Childs Adams said, “IDRC encourages sharing knowledge with policymakers, other researchers, and communities around the world.” She added that the result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most.

“It was a very interesting workshop,” says LAU exchange student Jean Kukko. “I was especially intrigued to find that the people of the diaspora expressed a desire not to ‘import’ bad politics from Lebanon but rather to ‘export’ its positive experiences back to their homeland.”

As the workshop concluded, Tabar expressly acknowledged the efforts of the various student researchers and graduate assistants who were commissioned to work on this and other IMS research projects.

Indeed, IMS offers a variety of research opportunities where students may hone research skills and get an understanding of new concepts and methodologies that complement their studies.

IMS also receives graduate students from abroad (typically from England and France) who take advantage of its activities and the LAU experience while they are writing their Ph.D. theses. To this end, IMS works in close collaboration with the European Research Institute to organize training sessions on research methodologies.


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