Beyond exile: agency and public in the Swedish-Chilean diasporisation
Erik Olsson (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper studies the Chilean community in Sweden and the transformation of this community towards a transnational diaspora. Typically, at the end of their exile or a generation-shift, they find themselves at a crossroads where either the reproduction of the community or its disappearance is at stake.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, the intention is to highlight some of the dimensions included in the conceptualising of diasporic phenomena. The case discussed in the paper is the Chilean migrant community in Sweden and the transformation of this community towards a transnational diaspora. The point of departure is that a community like the Chileans in Sweden, originally a refugee-group, will, at the end of their exile and/or a generation-shift, find itself at a crossroads where either the reproduction of the community or its disappearance is at stake. The paper argues for a process-oriented perspective that emphasises the need for groups and other community-like gatherings to reproduce in order to survive. The interest is dedicated to how migrants and successor generations of (real or imagined) migrants "become" diasporics through a diasporisation-process, rather than being "ethnics" by birth. Diasporisation involves some kind of mobilisation of people into a context where identification refers to the ethnic or national community as well as the ancestral homeland. What is of interest here is that diasporisation of Chileans in Sweden takes its point of departure in terms of the mobilisation of an already "dispersed" exile-community consisting of people that, in many cases, have little in common other than some distant affiliation to networks of migrants and, in the formal sense of the word, live in the same country. In order to perform as a social group and a community, its potential members have to be "diasporised". It is demonstrated that qualitative differences existed between ethnic mobilisation during exile and diasporisation in post-exile. Belonging to a diaspora like that of post-exile Chileans in Sweden, however, is a matter of practice and to some extent also free-choice. In other words, the visibility of the diaspora is not exclusively something reserved for ethnic Chileans, but relies on the visibility of the diaspora and the participation in diasporic practices open to a wider crowd of people. In comparison to community practices within ethnic or migrant groups in general, diasporic practices are probably more directed towards the public sphere and adapted so as to retain the public's attention.