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Competing for Lebanon's Diaspora: Transnationalism and Domestic Struggles in a Weak State


  • For support during field research in Lebanon, the author is grateful to the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at Notre Dame University and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.


Just as state strength influences relationships between state and society and among social forces within a national territory, so does it shape relationships between states and their emigrants and diasporas across territorial borders. Scholars debate how transnational migration affirms or challenges the dominance of the nation-state. When sending states are weak, however, diaspora–homeland linkages can undermine the role of the state in a way that is not transformative, but sustaining of the status quo. Examining Lebanon, this paper explores how domestic actors extend their struggles to vie over and through kin abroad. Three realms of competition are paramount: demography, votes, and money. The resulting transnational outreach reproduces a politics in which both expatriates and the state function as resources as much as actors.