Diaspora and development? Nigerian organisations in London and their transnational linkages with 'home'

Lampert, Ben (2010). Diaspora and development? Nigerian organisations in London and their transnational linkages with 'home'. PhD thesis University College London.

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This thesis responds to the rapidly proliferating academic, civil society and policy discourses that posit diasporas as powerful and positive actors in the development of their 'homelands'. These discourses highlight diaspora organisations as key institutions through which international migrants and their descendants contribute to the progress of 'home'. Consequently, these organisations are being lauded as new development actors that should be engaged and supported by governments and international agencies interested in pursuing more direct and participatory modes of development assistance.

However, it has been argued that this celebration of diaspora organisations is based on limited knowledge. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork conducted with London-based Nigerian organisations and their sites of intervention in Nigeria, this thesis makes a contribution to better understanding diaspora organisations and their progressive potential for 'home'. The thesis argues that London-based Nigerian diaspora organisations are not necessarily involved in the development of 'home' to the extent, or in the ways, imagined in celebratory discourses of diaspora and development. These organisations are entwined in the politics of socio-economic status, gender and belonging at 'home' in ways that are profoundly ambivalent in terms of the progressive role expected of them. Furthermore, their monetary, material, intellectual and political contributions to development at 'home' appear relatively limited and rather marginal, especially when compared to those made by local actors. This can be traced to a number of factors that are widely seen to severely constrain collective transnational mobilisation and intervention. Nonetheless, the thesis argues that diaspora organisations have much to contribute to the development of 'home'. However, if states and international agencies are to engage and support diaspora organisations in fulfilling this progressive potential, it will be necessary to engage these groups in more genuine and meaningful dialogue through which alternative, more cosmopolitan visions of belonging and development can be articulated and pursued.

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