|v i r t u a l d i a s p o r a s
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Virtual Diasporas: A New Frontier of National Security (Op-ed)
With the advent
of the information technology revolution, the recent mass migration of the
“Rest” into the “West”, the continuing diasporization of the American
metropolis, and the evolving globalization process, concerns are emerging in
various quarters about the role of virtual diasporas in national
security. The focus on the relations between diasporas and US foreign policy is
not new, but reached its peak of interest during the period of the cold war
whose context shaped our understanding of the issue. Some view diasporas as
maintaining their loyalty more to the homeland than the hostland; others argue
that they are committed to both countries; and still others see them as
assimilated individuals who care exclusively about the welfare of their country
of residence. While the mechanisms of their participation in American
politics—whether the emphasis is on their ethnic interests or their transnational orientation—are well known,
the role of virtual diasporas—in their relations to real diasporas, the
homeland, hostland, or American security—is, however, less known.
diaspora, we mean the use of cyberspace by immigrants or descendants of an
immigrant group for the purpose of participating or engaging in online
Such virtual interaction can be with members of the diasporic group living in
the same foreign country or in other countries, with individuals or entities in
the homeland, or with non-members of the group in the hostland and elsewhere.
By extension, virtual diaspora is the cyberexpansion of real diaspora. No
virtual diaspora can be sustained without real life diasporas and in this sense
it is not a separate entity, but rather a pole of a continuum.
The same way
diasporas form diverse communities of interests, virtual diasporas are not
monolithic either. Every diasporic group tends to generate a plurality of
virtual diasporas around areas of interest such as religion, politics, gender,
professions and the like. Since the membership comes from the same pool, these
virtual diasporas tend to be made up of intersecting circuits that crisscross
one another while maintaining their distinct focuses.
examples are presented to highlight the importance of virtual diasporas in the
management and resolution of transnational conflict, in general, and national
security, in particular. No single group is identified here to underscore the
widespread reality of the phenomenon.
add a cyberdimension to the resolution of national problems and through their
participation and contribution to the debate, they transnationalize such
governments spend an ordinate amount of money to engineer telecommunications
policies, to create and maintain web sites and in some cases provide online
services to netizens, they are also concerned about online diasporic activities
that may undermine their political basis of support. New positions are being
developed to monitor these activities and gather intelligence.
diasporas use the Internet to develop strategic alliances with grassroots
activists, thereby allowing them an opportunity to apply global pressure on the
hostland or homeland’s government.
achieve their highest levels of efficiency when they combine their
efforts—consciously or unconsciously—with real diasporic groups to reach a
specific goal, such as, for example, lobbying government officials in the
hosltand on behalf of the homeland. One side may strengthen or revive the
position of the other because they may
target different aspects of the problem and one side may sustain its efforts
longer than the other, thereby making it possible for the latter to recoup its
interests in the issue.
attacks are the new source of conflict in the diasporic community. Web sites of
pro-government and opposition groups are destroyed to prevent the participants
from enlarging the size of their group and from spreading the news and views of
their organizations. These attacks force such groups either to abandon their
enterprise, to seek the help of volunteer technicians, or else to ask the
community for funds to help defray these unforeseen expenses.
diasporas, by engaging in the domestic and foreign policies of the hostland
while participating via the Internet in the political affairs of the homeland,
add a new dimension to the transnational or even global architecture of