Reminiscences, Patriotism, Participation: Approaching External Voting in Ecuadorian Immigration to Italy



The paper explores the meanings and effects of external voting in the context of a recent migration flow -- of Ecuadorian migrants to Italy -- approached through an original fieldwork investigation. During the first long-distance voting experience of Ecuadorian immigrants, in October 2006, an exploratory survey was conducted in the cities hosting polls in Italy. This provided an opportunity for an inquiry into the motivations and expectations underlying emigrants’ electoral participation, with a focus on their patterns of inclusion overseas and their transnational ties. While Ecuador has been appealing to emigrants as a non-territorial “Fifth Region” with unbroken loyalties and citizenship rights, expatriates’ involvement was largely dictated by patriotism, homesickness and the desire to reproduce their social milieu abroad, rather than by a primary concern with political life in the motherland. A more nuanced understanding of emigrant transnational participation is hence advanced, appealing to categories such as visibility, recognition and communal identification, and with an emphasis on the processes reproducing and negotiating “Ecuadorianness” from overseas. The paper ends with some critical remarks on the scope for migrant political transnationalism, and on the agendas and expectations underpinning it.