Repoliticising development : the diaspora knowledge network (DKN) ChileGlobal and its contribution to development in Chile : a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
Throughout the last fifteen years, developing countries have increasingly devised diaspora strategies to tap into their overseas migrant populations for the purpose of achieving national development objectives. Endorsed by multilateral donor organisations, the private sector, NGOs and supported by bilateral donor agencies, diaspora strategies tend to represent diasporic communities as development actors whose entrepreneurial expertise, business knowledge and access to resources can be usefully captured via social and monetary remittances.
However, critical scholarship cautions against simplistic assumptions that underpin the often elite-based attempts of governments to leverage their diasporic collectives via selective policies. Moreover, the so-called ‘rise of the diaspora’ as a development actor, has also generated concerns suggesting that the state-integration of diasporic groups for development rationalities signifies a process of de-politicisation and control. Building on multi-sited research, this thesis engages with the practices, shifting coalitions and their outcomes of the Chilean diaspora knowledge network ChileGlobal.
The ChileGlobal knowledge network initially emanated from the World Bank’s Diaspora for Development programme in 2005 with the particular goal to foster innovation and economic development in Chile and, as such, was positioned as a distinct economic actor. Through the use of post-structurally informed concepts, and attending to the multiple sites of interaction within ChileGlobal, this thesis maps out how attempts to expand the scale and scope of ChileGlobal reconfigured and mobilised this knowledge network in unintended and far-reaching ways generating diasporic spaces of contestation and ambivalence.
By tracing the different sites and trajectory of ChileGlobal, as well as its politics of expansion that resulted in subsequent change of the constituency of ChileGlobal network, this thesis demonstrates how the partial transformation of this diaspora network from an economic to a political actor signifies a narrative that runs counter to broad claims about the depoliticising effects of contemporary development projects. Instead, the diaspora community assembled around ChileGlobal is indicative of the malleability and ambiguity of diaspora networks as development actors as well as their potential to challenge existing
public policy orthodoxy and dominant discourses of economic and calculative practices in contemporary Chile. Moreover, this thesis also highlights how simplistic outward focused diaspora strategies often fail to take into account how local, mundane, place based norms and cultures often shape and mediate the transfer of diasporic contributions.