Diaspora Lobbies and the US Government: Convergence and Divergence in Making Foreign Policy.

Author:Gabaccia, Donna R.
Position:Book review
 
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Diaspora Lobbies and the US Government: Convergence and Divergence in Making Foreign Policy Edited by Josh DeWind and Renata Segura New York: NYU Press and Social Science Research Council, 2014, 292 pp.

First a word of warning: this collection of essays, which is written mainly by political scientists and IR specialists, was not assembled with a multidisciplinary readership in mind. Furthermore, the terms refugee or forced migration rarely appear in its ten chapters. Framed by carefully--if also rather narrowly--defined questions that are of interest mainly within the discipline of political science, the book is focused exclusively on how diasporas (also somewhat idiosyncratically defined) engage with a single national government, that of the United States. Still, the book may contain useful insights for those interested more broadly in the exercise of power and influence by refugees operating within a global refugee regime.

The editors' introduction is valuable in introducing nonpolitical scientists to a distinctive disciplinary perspective. It provides a concise summary of how political scientists have tackled questions about the relationship of migrants and the US government in the arena of foreign policy, contrasting constructivist from essentialist and empirical from normative approaches. Overall, the book may serve mainly to remind more readers from other disciplines who are in search of general observations that refugees often seek to influence policy at the national rather than the international level, and that they do so by engaging with the governments of the nation states to which they have been relocated rather than through engagement with the governments of the regions they fled. Given the framing of the book, readers will necessarily learn little about how the occupants of the many crowded refugee camps of the world may seek influence with the United Nations or with the many NGOs that together powerfully shape a global refugee regime. In fact those camps, or the agency of refugees living in them, scarcely appears in this volume.

Still, readers interested mainly in refugee issues on a global scale will likely find something of interest here, most likely in one or more of the book's case studies (Jews, Palestinians, Irish, Cubans, Ethiopians, Haitians, and Iraqis). Most of the case study diasporas featured in this book were formed by migrants who viewed themselves--and often enough were also viewed by the world at large--as...

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