Global Governance and Diasporas: the Case of African Migrants in the USA

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2015-4-37-48

D. Bondarenko, Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 30/1, Spiridonovka Str., Moscow, 123001, Russian Federation; National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20, Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation (

Acknowledgements. The research was supported by the grants of the Russian Foundation for Humanities: no. 14-01-00070 “African Americans and Recent African Migrants in the USA: Cultural Mythology and Reality of Intercommunity Relations”, no. 13-01-18036 “The Relations between African-Americans and Recent African Migrants: Socio-Cultural Aspects of Intercommunity Perception”, and by the grant of the Russian Academy of Sciences as a part of its Fundamental Research Program for 2014.

The author is sincerely grateful to Veronika V. Usacheva and Alexandr E. Zhukov who participated in collecting and processing of the evidence, to Martha Aleo, Ken Baskin, Allison Blakely, Igho Natufe, Bella and Kirk Sorbo, Harold Weaver whose assistance in organization and conduction of the research was inestimable, as well as to all the informants who were so kind as to spend their time for frank communication.

Abstract. In 2013, the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences began a study of black communities in the USA. By now, the research was conducted in six states (Alabama, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania); in a number of towns as well as in the cities of Boston, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. The study shows that diasporas as network communities have already formed among recent migrants from many African countries in the U.S. These are diasporas of immigrants from individual countries, not a single “African diaspora”. On one hand, diasporas as an important phenomenon of globalization should become objects of global governance by means of regulation at the transnational level of both migration streams and foreign-born communities norms of existence. On the other hand, diasporas can be agents of social and political global governance, of essentially transnational impact on particular societies and states sending and accepting migrants, as evidenced by the African diasporas in the USA. Most American Africans believe that diasporas must and can take an active part in the home countries’ public life. However, the majority of them concentrates on targeted assistance to certain people – their loved ones back home. The forms of this assistance are diverse, but the main of them is sending remittances. At the same time, the money received from migrants by specific people makes an impact on the whole society and state. For many African states these remittances form a significant part of national income. The migrants’ remittances allow the states to lower the level of social tension. Simultaneously, they have to be especially thorough while building relationships with the migrant accepting countries and with diasporas themselves. Africans constitute an absolute minority among recent migrants in the USA. Nevertheless, directly or indirectly, they exert a certain influence on the establishment of the social life principles and state politics (home and foreign), not only of native countries but also of the accepting one, the U.S. This props up the argument that elaboration of norms and setting the rules of global governance is a business of not only political actors, but of the globalizing civil society, its institutions and organizations either. The most recent example are public debates in the American establishment, including President Obama, on the problem of immigration policy and relationships with migrant sending states, provoked by the 2014 U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit. Remarkably, the African diasporas represented by their leaders actively joined the discussion and openly declared that the state pays insufficiently little attention to the migrants’ needs and insisted on taking their position into account while planning immigration reform. However, Africans are becoming less and less “invisible” in the American society not only in connection with loud, but infrequent specific events. Many educated Africans who have managed to achieve a decent social status and financial position for themselves, have a desire not just to promote the adaptation of migrants from Africa, but to make their collective voice heard in American society and the state at the local and national levels. Their efforts take different forms, but most often they result in establishing and running of various diaspora organizations. These associations become new cells of the American civil society, and in this capacity affect the society itself and the government institutions best they can. Thus, the evidence on Africans in the USA shows that diasporas are both objects (to date, mainly potential) and real subjects of global governance. They influence public life, home and foreign policy of the migrant sending African countries and of migrant accepting United States, make a modest but undeniable contribution to the global phenomena and processes management principles and mechanisms.

Keywords: global governance, diasporas, migrations, migrant sending societies, migrant accepting societies, Africa, USA

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For citation:
Bondarenko D. Global Governance and Diasporas: the Case of African Migrants in the USA. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2015, no. 4, pp. 37-48.

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