Deterritorializing Conflict, Reterritorializing Boundaries : Diaspora and Conflict in the "Homeland"

Abstract: Ethnicized armed conflicts are usually studied in their territorial dimension and analyzed through the patterns of involvement of different direct and indirect actors. Mostly the focus lies on the multiple ways these direct and indirect actors affect the processes and outcomes of such conflicts. While direct actors mostly participate in the fighting itself, indirect ones can involve transnational advocacy organizations and diasporic groups. Diasporas in this perspective are usually considered to be either “peace-makers” or “peace-wreckers”. Less research has been done on the effects the ethnicized armed conflict in the “homeland” can have on diasporic communities.In this dissertation, I develop theoretical conceptualization of the intersection of armed conflict in the “homeland” and diaspora. I focus on a specific case of Ukrainian-Russian conflict and Ukrainian, Russian and conflict-generated diasporic groups in Sweden.I argue that the ethnicized armed conflict in the “homeland” can become deterritorialized. In other words, ideas, attitudes and ethnicized narratives of such conflicts can become detached from a certain geographical location and settle in the transnational space of interactions. Such conflict deterritorialization can in its turn trigger diasporization processes elsewhere. It can also mobilize the pre-existing diasporic organizations for “homeland”-related activism. If diasporic individuals and communities use the symbols, ideas and narratives of the conflict in the “homeland” in defining the Other, as well as their relationships and networks, another process – conflict reterritorialization – is at play. This process can subsequently shift group boundary making and maintenance processes.Together, the concepts of conflict deterritorialization and reterritorialization help explain the patterns and mechanisms of the armed conflict in its meaning dimension. In addition, such theoretical conceptualization enables the analysis of the effects the conflict might have in the diasporic setting, including the processes of politicization.Using the specific case of Ukrainian-Russian conflict (2014-ongoing) I analyze the collaboration networks of Ukrainian, Russian and conflict-generated organizations active in Sweden between 2013 and 2016 and interview Ukrainians and Russians from Ukraine living in Sweden. I show that both patterns of conflict deterritorialization and reterritorialization are present in this specific diasporic setting to different degrees.Study 1 theoretically conceptualizes conflict deterritorialization as a diasporization process using previous findings from different case studies. Study 2 investigates the mechanisms of diaspora politicization and the role of conflict-generated diasporas in facilitating these mechanisms. In Study 3 I find that during the most violent period of war in eastern Ukraine, the attitude towards the conflict might have become a leading factor for collaborations between diasporic organizations. And, finally, Study 4 explores the potentiality of armed conflict in the “homeland” to contribute to a shift in ethnic group boundary making processes in the diasporic setting.Taken together the four studies aim to shed light on the non-territorial meaning dimension of the ethnicized armed conflicts theoretically and empirically. Thus, the dissertation contributes to the development of the holistic understanding of war and diaspora while taking into account the importance of contexts, factors and conditions of the country of residence, the “homeland” and the transnational space.