University of Sussex
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Diaspora citizenship and the transnational domain: political, religious, charitable and familial practices amongst Zimbabweans in the UK

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posted on 2023-09-14, 18:02 authored by Thabani Mutambasere

This thesis develops the notion of diaspora citizenship to analyse domains of transnational action by Zimbabwean migrants in the UK focussing on their political, religious, charitable and familial practices. I argue that diaspora citizenship is enmeshed with a sense of belonging and active practices of civic engagement in both host and homeland. The thesis proposes an extension of the usual conceptualisation of ‘acts of citizenship’ (Isin, 2008) by exploring transnational domains of activism. A transnational lens allows us to look at how diasporic citizenship can provide a banner of mobilization, not just for undocumented or irregular migrants in relation to rights in countries of settlement, but also for a range of diasporic activists whose formal citizenship is not fully recognised in countries of origin. Diaspora citizenship therefore becomes a recognisable sphere of practice in both the hostland and homeland. The thesis draws on 85 qualitative interviews conducted in the UK and Zimbabwe and follows a multi-sited methodology that entailed tracing and assessing UK-based diaspora groups’ transnational networks and activities in Zimbabwe. It follows two specific diaspora civic activist networks, as well as practices of giving through Zimbabwean Roman Catholic organisations and familial networks. The thesis shows how a UK-based Zimbabwean professionals’ civic rights initiative collaborated with and supported major human rights organisations in Zimbabwe with funds and technology. It also discusses the transnational impact of irregular migrants in the UK who have funded their own human rights organisation in Zimbabwe. At the same time, the Zimbabwean diaspora’s transnational reach is also powerfully shaped by religious and familial networks, which are interconnected with transnational civic and political activism. The thesis extends prior studies of the Zimbabwean diaspora in the UK by illuminating understandings of citizenship, belonging and influence of diaspora members not only in the hostland, but also in the homeland. By so doing, the thesis contributes not only to scholarship on the Zimbabwe diaspora specifically, but also to broader theoretical debates by exploring the potential utility of the concept of diaspora citizenship.


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University of Sussex

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Professor JoAnn McGregor

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