Imagining the Homeland from Afar: Community and Peoplehood in the Age of the Diaspora
Diasporas—understood as groups of individuals or communities who carry an image of a homeland that is separate from the host land in which they reside—have always been with us. As long as there have been large movements of people across boundaries, be it voluntary or involuntary, there have been diasporas. The image of the homeland that diasporas carry could be real (an existing country) or imagined (a future country). In whatever way diasporas imagine the homeland, they have often attempted to act as if they belong to “we the people” of the homeland. They imagine themselves to be “outside the state but inside the people.” Homeland governments have often welcomed (or encouraged) diasporas’ interventions in homeland affairs, but not always. Whether diasporas are indeed “inside the people” although “outside the state” becomes an issue both when the interests of diasporas and governments of the homelands converge and when they diverge. This Article explores how and for what purpose diasporas could be considered to be part of the people of the homeland and when not. This requires a theory of “peoplehood” that this Article develops and defends. Using the notion of “community of stakeholders,” the Article indicates when and how those who are outside the state and yet consider themselves to be inside the people can participate in the life of the homeland. The Article also advances and defends the claim that the relationship between diasporas and homelands enables bridging the claims of cosmopolitans and unreconstructed territorialists, for the version of community that is worked out of the relationship between diasporas and homelands mediates the two aspects of people’s existence in this globalized world—national attachment and cosmopolitan sentiment. The homeland–diaspora relationship offers a point of departure for understanding how communities are formed and transformed; how legal obligations and allegiances develop and are altered; and generally, how a people constitutes itself both within and across territorial boundaries.