Title

Transnational political activism in American Cuban, Jewish, and Irish communities

Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Keywords

Transnational politics, Ethnic politics, Foreign policy, International organizations, Advocacy networks, Non-state actors

Subject Categories

International Relations | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Many observers attribute the United States' continued efforts to isolate the island of Cuba, its on-again, off-again involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and its engagement and disengagement in the conflict in Northern Ireland to the influence of well-organized, well-funded ethnic advocacy groups. While many exaggerate these groups' influence over US foreign policy, ethnic activists bring a single-mindedness and intensity to foreign affairs with few equivalents. Whether their actions take the form of lobbying, remittance-sending, or acts of violence, exile and diaspora groups' efforts to make political change in their ancestral homelands have far-reaching implications for the success or failure of: (a) homeland reform and opposition movements, (b) efforts to resolve protracted conflicts, and (c) the invigoration of homeland civil societies and economies.

This project surveys the activities of 30 political organizations in American Cuban, Irish, and Jewish communities, examining the multiple ways that these groups attempt to make change in Cuba, Northern Ireland, and Israel, respectively. It focuses on the implications that contention between neutral, partisan, and radical diaspora organizations has for politics within diaspora communities. I view each community as a competitive market place where ideological groups vie with one another for popular support and influence. In what ways do non-partisan, partisan, and radical ethnic organizations attempt to make political change in their homelands? What factors lead some ethnic organizations to pursue radical goals, while others in the same community choose more moderate ones? In what ways do these groups influence actions and attitudes within other diaspora organizations and within their homelands?

These community dynamics are best understood by looking at each ideological perspective's ability to find allies within the American foreign policy establishment and within the homeland government; the financial resources available to it; the political constituency that each organization represents; and the existence of significant cleavages within each ethnic community along generational, nativity, or economic class lines.

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