Four Types of Diaspora Mobilization: Albanian Diaspora Activism For Kosovo Independence in the US and the UK


  • Author's Note: I acknowledge the support for this research the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, a SSRC-ESRC fellowship to collaborate with Fiona Adamson, and the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College. I thank many diaspora activists who remain anonymous. Beitullah Destani, Christianne Wohlforth, Daut Dauti, Deborah West, James Pettiffer, Jennifer Erickson, Miranda Vickers, Susan Lynch, participants in the 2009 LSE Workshop “Diasporas and Activism in Europe,” and at the annual APSA meeting in 2011, as well as two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments or contacts for this research.

  • The copyright line for this article was changed on 28 July 2015 after original online publication.

  • 1Current affiliation: University of Warwick


This comparative study explores the conditions and causal pathways through which conflict-generated diasporas become moderate or radical actors when linked to homelands experiencing limited sovereignty. Situated at the nexus of scholarship on diasporas and conflict, ethnic lobbying in foreign policy, and transnationalism this article develops four types of diaspora political mobilization—radical (strong and weak) and moderate (strong and weak)—and unpacks the causal pathways that lead to these four types in different political contexts. I argue that dynamics in the original homeland drive the overall trend towards radicalism or moderation of diaspora mobilization in a host-land: high levels of violence are associated with radicalism, and low levels with moderation. Nevertheless, how diaspora mobilization takes place is a result of the conjuncture of the level of violence with another variable, the linkages of the main secessionist elites to the diaspora. The article uses observations from eight cases of Albanian diaspora mobilization in the US and the UK from 1989 until the proclamation of Kosovo's independence in 2008.

In the past decade, new political science research emerged to focus on the impact of diasporas on political processes in their original homelands. Security concerns triggered by the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks prompted scholars to concentrate on conflict-generated diasporas: Albanian, Armenian, Jewish/Israeli, Sikh, Tamil, Palestinian, and others (Byman et al. 2001; Shain 2002; Adamson 2002, 2006; Sheffer 2003; Wayland 2004; Fair 2005; Lyons 2006; Hoffman et al. 2007). Conflict-generated diasporas are considered more likely to maintain a myth of return, attachment to a homeland territory, and to display radical attitudes and behaviors regarding homeland political processes (Faist 2000; Shain 2002; Lyons 2006). Increasingly, scholars are questioning these views and providing evidence that diasporas can also act as moderate peace-makers (Smith and Stares 2007). Nevertheless, this scholarship remains largely confined to single case studies rather than comparative analysis.

This comparative study explores the conditions and causal mechanisms through which conflict-generated diasporas become moderate or radical actors when linked to homelands experiencing limited sovereignty. The study develops four types of diaspora political mobilization—radical (strong and weak) and moderate (strong and weak)—and demonstrates the causal pathways leading to these types. I argue that dynamics in the original homeland drive the overall trend toward radicalism or moderation of diaspora mobilization in a host-land: high levels of violence are more likely to be associated with radicalism and low levels with moderation. Nevertheless, how diaspora mobilization takes place is a result of the conjuncture of the level of violence with another variable, the linkages of the main secessionist elites to the diaspora, which can be strong or weak.

In this article, I concentrate on the Kosovar Albanian diaspora linked to the emerging Kosovo state. It belongs to a universe of cases of conflict-generated diasporas mobilized for political projects in the homeland, on par with the Israeli, Palestinian, Sikh, and Tamil diasporas and their respective territorial conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia. Kosovo proclaimed independence in February 2008, but still experiences limited sovereignty. The state has been internationally recognized by only 90 members of the 192 UN member states. Over the past two decades, Kosovar Albanians in the diaspora both peacefully advocated and fought militarily for Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

I researched eight cases of diaspora political mobilization and concentrated on four historical periods: the repression (1991–1998), the brief warfare (1998–1999) prior to NATO's 1999 military intervention in Kosovo, the immediate postconflict reconstruction period until the violent riots in 2004, and the later postconflict reconstruction period until the proclamation of independence in 2008. In addition, the United States and the United Kingdom provide the two political contexts. I chose this approach to illuminate reasons for differences in mobilization patterns. The United States and the United Kingdom both maintained foreign policies largely supportive of the Kosovar Albanians' human rights grievances and aspiration for territorial self-determination. They both offered civic rather than ethnic integration of international migrants. However, radical and moderate diaspora attitudes were strong in the United States and weak in the United Kingdom.

Understanding patterns of diaspora mobilization could add new insights into established literatures on ethnic lobbying in foreign policy, integration and multiculturalism, and the emerging scholarship on diasporas and conflicts. I seek to expand the boundaries of separate literatures by placing diaspora mobilization in the transnational realm, encompassing conditions and processes that incorporate homeland, host-land, and diaspora characteristics. Hence, this article's approach is congruent with what Sil and Katzenstein call “analytic eclecticism,” capturing broader causal complexity by focusing on middle-range theorizing and tracing “problem-specific interactions among a wide range of mechanisms operating across different domains and levels of social reality” (2010:419).

The rest of this article reviews scholarship on diasporas and conflicts, host-land integration regimes, and ethnic lobbying and foreign policy. It presents the research design, introduces empirics on Kosovo's independence movement and the Albanian diaspora, and further develops the four types of diaspora mobilization. I conclude by discussing how the internal validity of these findings could extend to a larger population of cases of conflict-generated diasporas linked to polities of limited sovereignty.

Major Theoretical Accounts

Without seeking to resolve a substantial conceptual debate about the term “diaspora,” I adopt a definition used by Adamson and Demetriou: “A diaspora can be identified as a social collectivity that exists across state borders and has succeeded over time to: (i) sustain a collective national, cultural or religious identity through a sense of internal cohesion and sustained ties with a real or imagined homeland, and (ii) display an ability to address the collective interests of members of the social collective through a developed internal organizational framework and transnational links” (2007:497). I limit the term to designate diasporas living in locations remote from their original territory rather than in adjacent areas. In Anderson's view, such diasporas are “long-distance nationalists” who often act irresponsibly because they do not face the consequences of their actions (1998:3–13).

One group of scholars consider that conflict-generated diasporas—more so than diasporas originating from voluntary migration—contribute to the exacerbation of homeland conflicts. Early accounts registered transgressive practices such as fundraising for shadow institutions and radical factions, purchasing of weapons, and drafting fighters (Byman et al. 2001; Shain 2002; Hockenos 2003). Civil wars resist resolution since rebels consider diasporas as resources and reach out to them for financial support (Collier and Hoeffler 2000; Kaldor 2001). Diasporas themselves may resist conflict resolution because the homeland conflicts help them to maintain their identities and institutions in a foreign land (Shain 2002). Diaspora networks penetrate various political, social, and cultural contexts and are simultaneously effective in multiple contexts (Wayland 2004; Adamson 2009; Lyons and Mandaville 2010). The Internet provides an especially fertile ground for globalized diasporas to engage in political activism (Brinkerhoff 2009).

An edited volume, organized around Bercovitch's conceptual framework on diaspora intervention in a conflict cycle, asked when diasporas become peace-makers or peace-wreckers. Having researched the Armenian, Cambodian, Croatian, Jewish, Palestinian, and Tamil cases, the contributors observed that diaspora entrepreneurs are more likely to act radically during the escalation rather than the prevention or termination phases of a conflict. Diasporas are more likely to act as peace-makers if their engagement reinforces their identity, coincides with the political line of their homeland, and stakes for achieving statehood are high (Bercovitch 2007; Smith and Stares 2007).

While a worthy contribution, this study left two key issues underdeveloped. First, some conflicts over sovereignty become unresolved even after formal conflict resolution takes place. By terminating the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, NATO's military intervention ended the violent conflict, but not the contention over full-fledged sovereignty. Hence, a theoretical approach focused solely on diaspora intervention in a conflict spiral does not capture diaspora dynamics spanning beyond conflict termination. Second, this volume did not establish generalizable causal processes that link explanatory and outcome variables of the researched cases.

A second group of scholars focus on ethnic lobbying in foreign policy and examine how diasporas become successful in pursuing their homeland-oriented claims. Ethnic groups seek to influence policy through three major venues: (i) framing, (ii) information and policy analysis, and (iii) policy oversight (Ambrosio 2002). According to Haney and Vanderbush (1999), successful lobbying is likely if diasporas promote policies that the government already favors, or if diasporas are able to find points of “permeability of and access to the government. If the policy requires involvement of Congress rather than the executive, permeability would be more likely, since the former has more points of access” (1999:345). If diasporas are able to influence government policy, host-states can even experience “policy capture” by diasporas and intervene in various conflicts abroad (Moore 2002; Mearsheimer and Walt 2007). In the context of secessionist conflicts, this is often because politicians respond to their domestic constituent's desires and intervene in conflicts with whose kin their supporters share ethnic ties (Saideman 1997). Allied with specific foreign policy elites, diasporas can even market democracy in authoritarian states (Shain 1999) or controversial foreign policies—such as the 2003 US intervention in Iraq—despite disagreement from other governmental officials and the general public (Vanderbush 2009). Rubenzer used qualitative comparative analysis to isolate characteristics conducive to a relative success in ethnic lobbying from scholarship suggesting different explanations for different cases. Alongside what he calls the “strategic convergence” and “relative permeability” criteria, he presents works arguing that ethnic foreign policy lobbying is likely to be successful if a group is partially assimilated (Uslander 1998), politically unified (Haney and Vanderbush 1999), organizationally strong, (Trice 1978), uses tactics viewed by the public as legitimate (Uslander 1998), identifies in a significant way with conditions affecting their kin in the original homeland (Scott and Osman 2002), is politically active on foreign policy issues (Watanabe 1984), is numerous enough to affect decision makers' electoral calculations (Smith 2000), faces no significant political opposition (Horowitz 1981), enjoys sectoral dominance (De La Garza 1987), has financial resources in order to yield influence (Smith 2000), and is capable of building viable alliances with other ethnic lobbies (Ambrosio 2002). Using Boolean minimization, Rubenzer identified that no single factor accounts for the relative success of diaspora lobbying in ten cases, but that two criteria related to diaspora attributes—organizational strength and high levels of political activity on US foreign policy issues—are necessary conditions for successful diaspora influence (authors quoted in Rubenzer 2008:172, 179–180).

This cluster of arguments needs specific scrutiny with regard to this study. First, viewed from a transnationalist perspective, the literature on ethnic foreign policy lobbying provides only a statist point of view. Transnational movements are indeed anchored in the context of nation-states and their foreign policy lobbying processes and migration regimes, but transnationalism adds new dimensions for consideration.1 The existing literature ascribes agency almost indiscriminately to all ethnic groups in foreign policy lobbying, without further theorizing about these actors' autonomy or the sources of their capacity to lobby and more broadly influence host-state politics. It makes a difference if the center of gravity for diaspora lobbying is embedded in the diaspora—as in the Jewish and Armenian cases—or is embedded abroad, as is the case of many secessionist movements. Although the latter may have numerous diasporas abroad, they may not have developed permanent lobbies. Hence, diaspora transnational linkages to an original homeland need to be considered in theorizing. Second, states in the international system rarely have convergent policies with regard to secessionist movements. At most, they can be sympathetic to a sovereignty struggle, as in the case of the United States and the United Kingdom with regard to Kosovo. Hence, examination of a “strategic convergence” of foreign policy and diaspora goals requires further analysis of the within-case processes that could reveal why diasporas mobilized differently in two countries that have been largely sympathetic to a sovereignty struggle.

From a transnationalism perspective, a third group of scholars have been recently seeking to understand how the deterritorialization or embeddedness of diasporas in various contexts influences homeland politics. Living in remote locations, conflict-generated diasporas can be deterritorialized from their original homeland, but nevertheless act on behalf of it while being mobilized in transnational processes (Lyons 2006). Diaspora activists could be “rooted cosmopolitans” embedded in specific social contexts (Tarrow 2005), “think locally and act globally” (Lyons and Mandaville 2010), and use global norms to frame specific domestic issues (Ostergaard-Nielsen 2003; Kozlowski 2005). While this literature promises to develop new ways to understand the linkages between states and diasporas in transnational processes, it is still in its early stages of development and has not yet clearly incorporated insights from ethnic lobbying in foreign policy into transnational processes in the context of sovereignty movements in original homelands.

Study Design

This study is based on a combination of structured focused comparison with a “before-and-after” design and the process-tracing method (George and Bennett 2004:81–82). In order to explain why different types of diaspora mobilization occur, I use the structured focused comparison. This method asks general theoretical questions across cases and considers variables of theoretical interest—in this case diaspora mobilization—from relevant literatures (ibid: 67–68). In order to increase the number of observations, this study subdivides the case longitudinally, before and after major warfare (1999) and then further subdivides each period into sub-periods delineated by the emergence of a wave of violence in the original homeland, namely the 1998 start of the internal warfare and the 2004 outbreak of violence in Kosovo. This comparison therefore operates with eight cases of diaspora mobilization in two states (the US and the UK) and during four periods (1989–1998, 1998–1999, 1999–2004, 2004–2008). I complement this comparison with the process-trading method, appropriate to explain not why, but how different types of diaspora mobilization occurred. By unpacking the relationship between the causal and the outcome variables and demonstrating intervening processes, I hope to avoid “unrealistic assumptions about the definitive results from the comparison alone” (Ibid, 203–232). This method also allows for testing alternative explanations along the steps of a causal chain. This study is based on more than 40 personal interviews which the author conducted in Kosovo, the United States, and the United Kingdom between 1999 and 2010 and on secondary sources.2

The theoretical scope includes periods of repression and postconflict reconstruction in the original homeland. With their real or imagined affective ties to their kin and a core identity based on a collective trauma, diasporas during violent periods experience emotions that can become instrumental in forming their resolve to use violence. Here I build on a study of Petersen (2002) that demonstrated a relationship between the emotions experienced by severely repressed groups, and the use of violence. In contrast, the main contribution of diasporas during postconflict reconstruction is economic. They often supply 12–14% of GDP per capita through remittances and targeted projects (Cochrane 2007). Postconflict reconstruction is a politically volatile period. In the absence of strong institutions, insecure political environments allow for the proliferation of self-interested actors, including diasporas.

I selected the Kosovar Albanian diaspora as a case belonging to a universe of cases of conflict-generated diasporas for which the emerging literature has established some typical characteristics: involuntary displacement, traumatic identities and experiences, intention or myth of return, and emotional linkages to homelands experiencing limited sovereignty. This group includes diasporas such as the Croatian diaspora and its involvement in the formation of the Croatian state after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the Irish diaspora and the Northern Ireland conflict, the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Tamil diaspora and the secessionist conflict in Sri Lanka, among others. An intensive study of one unit gives opportunities to understand a larger class of units (Gerring 2004: 342). Such an approach is especially relevant to new research programs—such as diaspora mobilization—where large-N data have not been gathered systematically across relevant variables (Seawright and Gerring 2008:296).

I selected the United States and the United Kingdom for comparison, since they share several similar characteristics relevant for this study. Both the United States and the United Kingdom allow civic rather than ethnic acquisition of citizenship on a jus soli basis, although they incorporate ethno-religious diversity differently. The United States pursues an individualized “melting pot” strategy, while a “multiculturalism” of collectives dominates in the United Kingdom (Joppke 1999: 260; Modood 2005:viii). Nevertheless, after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in New York and the 7/7/2005 attacks in London, some scholars suggested that multiculturalism has contributed to home-grown terrorism and to more homeland-oriented claims (Hoffman et al. 2007). Immigration became securitized (Rudolph 2003), and policymakers began to drop multiculturalism from their vocabularies (Vertovec and Wessendorf 2010). In addition, compared to other countries—such as France or Russia—both the United States and the United Kingdom were generally sympathetic to the Kosovo liberation movement and were the main proponents of NATO's military intervention in Kosovo. Hence, these similarities cannot explain the different types of radicalism and moderation.

The dependent variable is “diaspora political mobilization.” This concept denotes ideational frames and practices used by diaspora entrepreneurs to make claims in support of homeland political processes. Diaspora mobilization has two dimensions: direction (radical/moderate) and strength (strong/weak). With regard to direction, radical and moderate mobilizations correspond to what McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly (2001) call “transgressive” and “contained” contention. “Transgressive” contention consists of episodic, public, and collective interactions and “repertoires” incorporating extreme agendas and the adoption of “means that are either unprecedented or forbidden” (McAdam et al. 2001:7). In diaspora politics, traumatic identities perpetuate hate speech, demonstrations turn violent, funds are raised for secessionist groups in the homeland, fighters are drafted, and weapons purchased primarily through transnational channels. “Contained contention” denotes “well-established means of claim making” in episodic, public, and collective interaction with other claim makers, oftentimes governments (ibid). This type of contention occurs primarily through lobbying of host-state institutions and civil society, petitioning, and nonviolent demonstrations in diaspora politics. With regard to strength, diasporic claims and repertoires can be strong or weak. Strong mobilization occurs when numerous diaspora entrepreneurs make claims and use contentious repertoires, while weak mobilization is limited to only a few of those entrepreneurs. See Table 1.

Table 1. Four types of diaspora political mobilization
StrongTYPE 1: US 1989–1998; US 1999–2004; US 2004–2008TYPE 3: US 1998–1999
WeakTYPE 2: UK 1989–1998; UK 1999–2004; UK 2004–2008TYPE 4: UK 1998–1999

Conjunctural effects lead to the four types of diaspora mobilization.3 A major variable is the level of violence, which can be “high” or “low.” High-level violence occurs when an ethnic group is subject to grave violations of human rights and ethnic cleansing of the entire community. Low-level violence occurs when violent acts are used against specific individuals, mostly the politically active. The level of violence provides variance for diaspora mobilization during the historical sub-periods, but acts as a control variable for the paired cases of US and UK diaspora mobilization. The level of violence intersects with another variable: the linkages of the main secessionist elites with the diaspora. I define “linkages” to be repeated interactions in the transnational space between the main secessionist elites and diaspora entrepreneurs. These interactions depend on how important the main secessionist elites consider the position of a particular diaspora to be for the sovereignty goal. Linkages are “strong” with a diaspora considered more likely to contribute to the cause with its material capability and location in a host-state considered internationally crucial for the achievement of sovereignty. Linkages are “weak” when the diaspora is considered less likely to contribute materially to the cause and resides in a host-state that is of limited significance to the sovereignty goal. Although the last variable considers diaspora and host-land characteristics, it is relational, since it is at the discretion of the main secessionist elites to attribute values of importance to a particular diaspora in a particular state. I measure the “linkages” variable on statements of interviewees from Kosovo and the diaspora about the frequency of their interactions across borders and on available secondary material.

Introduction of Cases

Kosovo has been a contested territory since 1913 when the newly founded Albanian state did not incorporate half of the existing ethnic Albanian population. This population was left in adjacent Slavic-dominated areas, including Serbia and the western parts of present-day Macedonia. In socialist Yugoslavia, the Kosovar Albanians enjoyed the right of territorial autonomy, but not that of self-determination as the titular republics of Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia did. Aspirations to make Kosovo another federal entity did not materialize in the early 1980s as Serbian and Kosovar Albanian nationalists increasingly clashed over its political future. The lack of self-determination prevented Kosovar Albanians from gaining international recognition after they first declared independence in 1991. Between 1990 and 1992, the repressive Milosevic regime introduced laws effectively segregating the Kosovo Albanians from public and economic life. In response, a shadow government developed under the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which advocated nonviolent resistance. Its representation weakened after the 1995 Dayton Accords did not include a political future for Kosovo and paved the way for a militarized alternative to emerge in 1996–1997 with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which advocated an armed revolt.

Kosovo has been a secessionist entity facing challenges to its international legal and domestic sovereignty.4 Internationally, only Albania recognized Kosovo's aspirations for statehood as of the early 1990s. International negotiations launched under the so-called “Ahtisaari Plan” between 2007 and 2008 encouraged a number of Western states to support an independent Kosovo, surpassing the authority of the UN Security Council and major powers such as China and Russia. Domestically, Kosovo was a territory of limited sovereignty during the 1990s when it was a de jure part of Serbia, although the shadow government maintained institutions within the territory and in exile, primarily in Germany. Even after NATO's 1999 intervention, few opportunities existed to govern domestically due to the de facto rule of the United Nations Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK). UNMIK built domestic institutions such as parliament, central and local governments, but often ruled by decree.

Since Kosovo's secessionist elites had little support from abroad—including from Albania—LDK's strategy to internationalize the conflict needed to incorporate links to alternative nonstate actors, including diaspora entrepreneurs.5 Thus, as early as 1992–1993, LDK offices sprang up in the United States, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and other European countries (Hockenos 2003; Sullivan 2004).

The US and UK Albanian diasporas differ in make-up, size, and organizational level. The United States experienced several waves of Albanian immigration. At the start of the twentieth century, the first wave was primarily by peasants who settled in the Northeast and Midwest. Anticommunist in their ideology, another 30,000–50,000 arrived from Albania proper after the end of World War II (Hockenos 2003). The largest organization of this immigration wave was the New York–based “Vatra,” but smaller organizations emerged in the Midwest as well. The last major wave came after the Soviet Union's dissolution. Economically-driven immigrants arrived from Albania, and political refugees came from Kosovo. By the late 1990s, a US census of ancestry registered 113,661 Albanians (US Census Bureau 2004). During the 1990s and 2000s, two major organizations emerged to pursue Kosovo's independence: the New York–based Albanian American Civic League (AACL) of former US Congressman Joe DioGuardi (R-NY) and the Washington, DC–based National Albanian American Council (NAAC). Both pursued Kosovo's sovereignty vigorously.

In contrast, Albanian immigration to the United Kingdom is more recent. In 1991, only 338 ethnic Albanians were registered in the United Kingdom, but by 1993, the number had grown to 2,500 (International Organization for Migration [IOM] 2008:6). No state-based statistics of ancestry exist in the United Kingdom, but diaspora leaders estimate the number to be 70,000–100,000, with 70–80% living in London (Dauti 2009; Destani 2009). The early wave was mostly Kosovar refugees, while more Albanians arrived from Albania proper in the mid-1990s. By the late 1990s, the Kosovo Information Center (KIC), affiliated with the shadow government, was the central organization. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) established limited representation.

Four Types of Diaspora Mobilization

This article asserts that although a struggle for sovereignty is constantly at stake, periods of high violence in the homeland are more likely to induce radical diaspora mobilization, while periods of low-level violence moderate behavior. Low and high levels of violence start the causal pathways leading to particular mobilization types, but thereafter, the main secessionist elites attribute importance to a particular diaspora for the achievement of sovereignty and establish and maintain strong or weak linkages with that diaspora (see Table 2). I present the causal pathways leading to the four mobilization types in a schematic way in Figure 1. Yet, in order to lay out the complex narrative of a nearly 20-year-long period, I present these four types in the sequence of their occurrence during the sub-periods (1989–1998, 1998–1999, 1999–2004, 2004–2008).

Figure 1.

Causal pathways.

Table 2. Conjunctural explanations for the four types
CharacteristicsTYPE 1 Strong ModerationTYPE 2 Weak ModerationType 3 Strong RadicalismType 4 Weak Radicalism
Level of Violence in the HomelandLowLowHighHigh
Linkages of the Main Secessionist Elites with the DiasporaStrongWeakStrongWeak

In exploring mobilization types, it is crucial to understand the importance of transnational linkages and their embeddedness in specific contexts rather than just differences in host-state characteristics and diaspora composition. The transnational building of new relationships by the main secessionist elites and converting old diaspora organizations to support the sovereignty struggle is crucial in understanding the mobilization process. One could suggest that differences in the characteristics of the two diasporas could solely explain the different types of mobilization, since a more numerous and integrated US-based diaspora is more likely to have political influence than a smaller one in the United Kingdom, regardless of characteristics of the host-states. While the presence of a numerous and well-organized diaspora in the United States may be viewed as a potential resource by the main secessionist elites, this does not necessarily mean that this diaspora would automatically join the sovereignty struggle. As Fair points out on the basis of her research on Sikh and Tamil diasporas, diaspora institutions built specifically for conflict purposes rather than adapted for a nationalist struggle are more effective at fostering radical attitudes (Fair 2005). Most of the Albanian organizations in the United States before 1989 were organized to pursue local US-based interests. When they had a foreign policy agenda, it was directed against communist Albania, not toward Kosovo's independence. A small yet politically active diaspora of recent refugees from the conflict area—as the case of the Albanian diaspora in the United Kingdom—could be potentially more intense in its radicalism than a large and well-integrated one. Well-integrated diasporas have often lost emotional connections with their kin-state and so are less likely to identify with the sovereignty struggle and politically mobilize for it.

Moderate Diaspora Mobilization (1989–1998)

In the original homeland, the level of violence during the first period (1989–1998) was characterized by the Serbian regime's repressive measures against the Kosovar Albanians. Violent demonstrations occurred in response to curtailed autonomy in 1989, but after the formation of parallel governance structures, LDK leader Ibrahim Rugova adopted a more moderate approach of nonviolent resistance. In this period, the Serbian regime intimidated individuals associated with these parallel structures and civic organizations. Police officers beat, conducted “informative talks,” and imprisoned the politically active (Human Rights Watch (HRW) 1993:38–56). Seventeen activists were killed in 1994, and the death toll had doubled by 1997 (International Helsinki Federation (IHF) 1998:256). The violence targeted the politically active, but there was no ethnic cleansing.

TYPE 1: Strong Moderation

The US-based Albanian diaspora exemplified strong moderate mobilization in 1989–1998. A causal pathway started with the repressive measures in Kosovo after 1989, prompting the main secessionist elites to establish close linkages with diaspora entrepreneurs. The United States had attracted entrepreneurial immigrants, and this diaspora was relatively affluent (Sullivan 2004). Previous immigration waves were also well integrated into American society. This diaspora was also in the only post–Cold War superpower, and the United States had major stakes in the processes and organizations relating to the disintegration of socialist Yugoslavia. A senior foreign policy advisor to the then shadow government explained that the exiled authorities prioritized the US-based diaspora for lobbying because the US pluralist system of interest representation was more permeable and the US government was more sympathetic to the defense of minority rights than any European government (A1 2002).

Moreover, some ad hoc diaspora activism on behalf of Kosovo was already taking place. DioGuardi's AACL showed early interest in stopping human rights violations. Mobilized by diaspora circles, US Senators Dennis DeConcini (Dem, Arizona), Robert Dole (REP, Kansas), and seven others arrived in Kosovo to investigate human rights abuse in 1990 (A2 2002). DioGuardi's AACL exerted limited impact on the adoption of the 1992 “Christmas Ultimatum” by the outgoing George H. Bush administration (Sullivan 2004).6 In 1993, the incoming Clinton administration confirmed that commitment. Emphasizing the need to solicit more lobbying, the main secessionist elites encouraged the Albanian diaspora to support campaigns and fundraising for US politicians rather than the “Fund for Kosovo,” which was controlled by Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi out of Germany, and collected a 3% informal tax on each Kosovar Albanian's income (Hockenos 2003).

Human rights abuse in Kosovo helped the main secessionist elites—the LDK at that time—to transnationalize its nonviolent political agenda.7 Transnationalization of the politics of the main secessionist elites occurred when the LDK decided to build offices in the United States, triggering defensiveness and competition from DioGuardi, who had started advocating for Kosovo in the late 1980s. According to Hockenos (2003), initial AACL supporters switched sides and joined the LDK after its arrival. Harry Bajraktari, an early AACL supporter, claimed, that prior to LDK's arrival, DioGuardi was a “hired gun” who was “paid to work for us, not to tell us what to do.” Instead of supporting DioGuardi's ambitions for reelection, the LDK decided to concentrate on congressional representatives, such as Sue Kelly (REP, NY) and Eliot Engel (DEM, NY) who could better promote Kosovo's independence (ibid). The rift between the two groups grew to such an extent that, in 1996, the Washington-based NAAC was founded with serious LDK support. While DioGuardi remained active on Kosovo, he no longer controlled Kosovar Albanians' lobbying after 1996.

By building strong relationships with the US-based diaspora, prioritizing it in terms of lobbying and transnationalizing its nonviolent strategies to the diaspora entrepreneurs, the LDK contributed to the development of clearly outspoken yet moderate politics in US diaspora circles until 1997–1998.

TYPE 2: Weak Moderation

In comparison with the United States, the UK-based Albanian diaspora was not considered a major potential contributor by the LDK and did not enjoy much attention from it. While Kosovar refugees were educated, urban, and middle-class—characteristics that would render them plausible agents for material contributions—they were nevertheless preoccupied with their own survival. Many faced obstacles to acquire an education in the United Kingdom until a 1996 governmental policy gave them refugee status (Kostovicova 2003). Furthermore, highly entrepreneurial or rural populations with close linkages to extended families in Kosovo were considered more likely to contribute financially than the urban population (A3 2009). Also, the United Kingdom was an important negotiator in processes related to the collapse of Yugoslavia, but Prime Minister John Major's Conservative government (1992–1997) maintained closer links with Serbia. Successful lobbying required that the diaspora establish durable relationships through the party system, trade unions, and businesses. For a newly established diaspora with limited financial capabilities, these structural constraints were an impediment.

Facing almost no preorganized diaspora groups, the LDK transnationalized its policies more easily in the United Kingdom. By 1991, only left-wing and right-wing political associations existed among the British with interests in Albania (A4 2009). The new wave of refugees determined the character of the diaspora institutions. Young, college-educated refugee men who had been barred by the Milosevic regime from studying at Prishtina University congregated in 1992 around two new clubs in London: the Cultural Club “Faik Konitsa,” transformed in 1995 into the Albanian Community Center, and the Kosovo Information Center (KIC), a political branch of the LDK (Centre for Defense Studies (CDS) 2002; IOM 2008:6).Following the LDK's central directions, the London-based KIC focused on lobbying parliamentarians in the early 1990s. The Conservative government was considered inaccessible, since along with other Western governments, it adhered to a statist principle postulating nonintervention in the territorial jurisdiction of the Yugoslav state. Moreover, the Foreign Office dismissed the majority of Kosovo's claims (Pettifer 2005). The focus fell instead on parliamentarians inclined to support sovereignty struggles abroad. LDK activists brought the then Labour Party MP George Galloway and Conservative Party MP Steven Norris to Kosovo (A5 2009). Yet, KIC's activism remained ad hoc. It did not develop standing committees within the party system as did other diaspora groups such as “Labour Friends of Israel” or “Conservative Friends of Israel.” A parliamentary group was established only after Kosovo's 2008 independence and recognition (A6 2009). The KIC also failed to receive major sympathy within the trade unions. Its ties to UK institutions remained weak. It managed, however, to collect the 3% informal tax from Kosovar refugees to contribute to the fund managed by Bukoshi in Bonn.

The LDK contributed to the development of ad hoc yet moderate diaspora activism in the United Kingdom until 1997–1998 by building only weak relationships with that diaspora, which was determined by limited opportunities for lobbying and fundraising.

Radical Diaspora Mobilization (1998–1999)

Between 1998 and 1999, the level of violence in Kosovo increased, as the Serbian regime and the Kosovar rebels warred internally. Between February and March 1998, about 60 people were killed, including the massacre of a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander's extended family in March 1998 (Amnesty International [AI] 1998:6–7). Violence reached the level of ethnic cleansing in late 1998 and early 1999. In August 1998, 400 Albanians were missing from Serbian detention, 17,000 were displaced to Montenegro, and more than 13,000 fled to other countries (ibid). At the end of the conflict in June 1999, at least 6,000 Kosovar Albanians were registered as victims of mass murder (US State Department 1999).

TYPE 3: Strong Radicalism

The US-based Albanian diaspora's mobilization during 1998–1999 exemplified strong radicalism. The causal pathway started with the escalation of violence in 1997–1998, prompting a reconfiguration of relationships between the main secessionist elites and the diaspora to increase fundraising and illicit activities in addition to lobbying. Moreover, the main secessionist elites were in the process of changing. The KLA, which originated from the Kosovar Albanian diaspora in Germany and Switzerland in the late 1980s but largely irrelevant politically until 1996–1997, started gaining political and military ground in Kosovo and advocating for a violent solution to the sovereignty struggle. By 1998, it had managed to displace the LDK as a leader of the Kosovo struggle and to effectively challenge its nonviolent strategy as a means to achieve Kosovo's statehood.

Thus, the transnationalized ethnic politics which took place with the LDK's initial efforts in the early 1990s ultimately did not work in their favor. Once the LDK established durable linkages with the diaspora and incorporated its entrepreneurs into its transnational protest networks, it paved the way for local processes to become transplanted on foreign soil even if they did not serve the LDK agenda. The causal pathway included the mechanism of “ethnic outbidding”: when the KLA displaced the LDK not only in Kosovo, but also in the wider diaspora circles and beyond where it had originated—Germany and Switzerland. In turn, diaspora radicalization led to further escalation of the conflict in Kosovo.

Ethnic outbidding took place through a sequence of sub-processes in the transnational space. First, attempts at coalition building in the diaspora failed. The exiled LDK Prime Minister Bukoshi split from the Kosovo-based President Rugova after 1996 and sought a coalition with the KLA by offering institutional legitimacy (Bukoshi 2002). He reinvigorated his “ministry of defense,” the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo (FARK), which operated briefly alongside KLA militants in some Kosovo regions, but internal divisions within FARK allowed the KLA to gain the upper hand (Perritt 2008). The KLA rejected Bukoshi's propositions, considering “Rugova and company as traitors,” and started building its own networks (Thaci 2002).

Fundraising expansion by reframing the mobilization message further contributed to successful ethnic outbidding. Adamson rightly observed that the KLA garnered support through messages stressing the LDK's powerlessness and inculcating guilt in existing diaspora members (Adamson 2009). Another key message was based on ideological reframing in the US context. In order to expand fundraising from Europe to the United States, the KLA needed to be perceived as having shed its ideological connections to communism. New York–based roofer Florin Krasniqi played a crucial role. According to Sullivan (2004), while negotiating his own fundraising independence from European-based KLA operatives in 1997, he stressed that the US-based diaspora was staunchly anticommunist and would not support a Marxist movement. He raised funds from New York via his distinct “Homeland Calling Fund.” During his fundraising trips to Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, California, and Alaska, Krasniqi used an all-inclusive message welcoming Rugova's supporters and enemies with the words: “It is each and every patriot's duty to support the KLA” (Sullivan 2004). As a result, an unprecedented amount of estimated USD 11 million was raised in 1997–1999 (Perritt 2008). The funds were spent primarily on weapons and military equipment. Through reframing the message and the use of what Tarrow (2005) calls “rooted cosmopolitans” such as Krasniqi who “acted locally but thought globally” (Lyons and Mandaville 2010), the KLA managed to galvanize the diaspora for radical activities.

Ultimate radicalization occurred when the KLA tapped directly into the diaspora's military potential. Exiled KLA members with cousins in Kosovo attached themselves to anyone locally who might fight and developed an early militarized network (Perritt 2008). Massive drafts of volunteers started taking place as of 1996–1997, boosted by the March 1998 massacre of a KLA commander's extended family and communal violence in Kosovo. Many volunteers from the United States and other countries did not pass the KLA's test to fight guerilla warfare, which required a strong physical condition and local knowledge (ibid). Nevertheless, the so-called “Atlantic Battalion” was drafted from an eclectic group of US-based volunteers who fought in Mount Pastrik in Kosovo in 1999 (Jurisevic 2010). Although the exact numbers of the US-based volunteers are unknown, KLA commander Hashim Thaci estimated that 20–30% of the entire volunteer force that fought in Kosovo come from that diaspora (Perritt 2008).

By maintaining strong relationships with the US-based diaspora, capitalizing on the internal warfare in Kosovo in 1998–1999, and expanding the mobilization messages to include ideological reframing for fundraising and solicitation of militarized illicit activities, the main secessionist elites—KLA at the time—contributed to the strong radicalization of US diaspora politics.

TYPE 4: Weak Radicalism

The mobilization of the Albanian diaspora in the United Kingdom in 1998–1999 exemplifies weak radicalism. In this type also, a high level of violence in the homeland started the causal pathway and drove the overall trend toward diaspora radicalism. However, diaspora mobilization remained weak. Even if the main secessionist elites were in the process of changing and the UK-based diaspora had significantly grown by the mid-1990s numerically, the KLA did not consider the UK-based diaspora as important for the sovereignty struggle. Despite these weak linkages, transnationalization of radical local politics took place, but was less able to draw large-scale diaspora mobilization into radical behavior (See Figure 1).

It is counter-intuitive and challenging to existing accounts on ethnic foreign policy lobbying, but some interviewees argued that limited diaspora resources are not likely to be spent on lobbying an already convinced government. As of 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government distinguished itself from its Conservative predecessor and his failure to adequately address the humanitarian disasters in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Kosovo became a test of strength for Blair and his government. Standing at the helm of the liberal interventionist discourse at the time, he ultimately became a driving force for the launching of NATO's 1999 military intervention (Vickers 2000; Daddow 2009).

A weak lobbying effort existed specifically toward foreign policy advisers and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in 1998–1999 (A5 2009; A6 2009). Ad hoc diaspora initiatives continued through meetings with policymakers to raise awareness of the escalation of violence in Kosovo. Kosovar and British intellectuals' attempt to organize MPs in the House of Commons in 1998 created a massive media response (A4 2009). Community leaders rightly attribute no causal weight to their impact on the UK's decision to support NATO's military intervention. They claim that their primary contribution was to provide inside information for decision makers during the internal warfare since media coverage was scarce. They expanded media coverage by encouraging British citizens to write letters to the media and to claim that policymakers needed to avoid a belated response to the Kosovo crisis. They prepared British public opinion to accept Blair's advocacy of military intervention, a difficult political sell.

The mechanism of “ethnic outbidding” aided the radicalization of transnationalized diaspora politics in this case as well. The oscillations of KIC's organizational existence correspond to the periods when the LDK weakened significantly. The KIC functioned from 1992 but closed in 1997 due to the Bukoshi–Rugova split (A5 2009). This was an opportune moment for the KLA to step in. The center was reopened after 1999, but stopped actively functioning in 2002 (ibid).

In contrast to the United States, the KLA established only a weak representation in the United Kingdom. The movement was slow to name a leader, and when it did, the young doctor Pleurat Sejdiu operated incognito out of a garage in Finchley (Pettifer 2005:153). The KLA had some success in mobilizing diaspora members for fundraising and military recruitment by exerting heavy pressure on LDK supporters to switch allegiance (A5 2009). The KLA drafted volunteers selectively. In the end, two busloads of volunteers left for Kosovo. Kosovar Albanians and Albanians from Albania proper were among the fighters. The KLA leader's visibility increased during the 1998–1999 warfare and he even gave statements to the media.

By maintaining weak relationships with the UK-based diaspora, the KLA did not put much effort into increasing lobbying activities, but transnationalized its domestic politics advocating violent solutions and solicited small-scale financial and military support from the diaspora. In these processes, some diaspora circles became radicalized, but the overall mobilization remained weak.

Moderate Diaspora Mobilization (1999–2004, 2004–2008)

Two historical sub-periods were selected for analysis in the aftermath of NATO's intervention—before and after the riots in Kosovo in 2004. These riots are a theoretically useful cutoff point to test whether diasporas radicalize when violence in the homeland temporarily surges but does not reach levels of internal warfare. Overall, the level of violence in Kosovo remained low during both sub-periods.

During the first sub-period (1999–2004), violence became sporadic after the arrival of UNMIK and NATO's peacekeeping forces. According to Boyle (2010), the immediate postwar violence until June 2000 was characterized by revenge killings where KLA operatives intimidated local Serbs and Roma who had aided Milosevic during the 1998–1999 warfare. OSCE reported 348 murders, 116 kidnappings, 1,070 lootings, and 1,106 arson cases. In a second wave (June 2000–December 2001), the violence further subsided, but was strategically aimed at diminishing Kosovo's ethnic diversity. Dominating the territory with more than 80% of the population, Kosovar Albanians viewed ethnic diversity as diminishing their chances for independence. By 2001, Serbs were targets in 22% of the murders and 15% of kidnappings (Boyle 2010). This sub-period ended with a short but intense episode of Kosovar mob violence in March 2004, which left 28 civilians dead, 400 Serbian homes ruined, and 35 Orthodox churches vandalized or destroyed (Wood 2004). Thereafter, the level of violence subsided again.

TYPE 1: Strong Moderation

The Albanian diaspora mobilization in the United States during both sub-periods—before and after 2004—exemplifies strong moderation. In the causal pathway, a decreased level of violence in the homeland in 2000 led to the partial demobilization of previous large-scale diaspora activities. While the main secessionist elites shifted attention from the diaspora to institution building in the homeland, they still maintained good connections with diaspora entrepreneurs who were considered important for lobbying. The 2004 mob violence bolstered the existing diaspora mobilization, but—with a few exceptions—did not induce any major radicalization responses. Diaspora entrepreneurs increased their lobbying, and some issued threats. US foreign policy shifted toward the achievement of sovereignty, facilitating further diaspora moderation until Kosovo's independence was proclaimed in 2008.

Diaspora mobilization in the United States subsided for a number of reasons. First, Serbia was defeated by NATO, and, as the ethnic majority in postconflict Kosovo, Albanians experienced no major insecurity. Second, the emotional impact of violence during warfare lost its mobilization potential in the diaspora.8 When violence occurred, the diaspora was exposed to it through family reports and images in the global media. When violence subsided, however, the emotions needed to sustain diaspora mobilization weakened. Diaspora members turned their energies away from Kosovo and toward improving their own situation in the United States (A7 2006). Major diaspora personalities—–such as US-based KLA activist Dino Asanaj—returned to Kosovo to build new careers. Businessman Harry Bajraktari, NAAC member and publisher of the Albanian-American Ilirija newspaper, launched one of the biggest investment schemes in Kosovo after 1999 (Zëri Yt 2007). Most continued to send remittances to family members or open new small businesses. Third, the need of the main secessionist elites for diaspora activism decreased. Priorities shifted for the new Kosovo leaders, who started building institutions under UNMIK supervision. They had already considered an “institutional” path to independence rather than “nonviolent resistance” (LDK) or “guerilla warfare” (KLA).

In line with this new path to achieve sovereignty, the diaspora continued to be necessary for lobbying purposes, specifically to spread the message that Kosovo was capable of governing democratically and of becoming a sovereign state. Political activism continued with moderate practices, emphasizing a democratic discourse and support for democracy-building initiatives. In New York, AACL's President Joe DioGuardi hailed the “disciplined behavior” of Kosovars during the 2000 municipal elections and claimed their ability to govern democratically (Zeri Weekly 2000). In Washington, DC, NAAC developed initiatives to educate Kosovar parliamentarians, central and local government officials, and connect businesses with US counterparts (A7 2006).

While the capacity of the Albanian-American diaspora remained strong to aid political developments in the homeland, US foreign policy priorities shifted away from Kosovo. Preoccupied with the “War on Terror” after 9/11/2001 and the military interventions in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), the George W. Bush administration shifted its focus away from the Balkans to the Middle East. Political circles started associating Kosovo with Europe's responsibilities for postconflict reconstruction. While diaspora entrepreneurs were not denied access to various foreign policymakers, their accessibility to the host-state decreased on the whole. Appeals of the main secessionist elites and diaspora entrepreneurs to launch negotiations on Kosovo's final status often fell on deaf ears.

Moderate diaspora politics continued, but radical networks were partially revived after the 2004 mob violence in Kosovo. These events were considered a local expression of Kosovar opposition to a lack of international consideration of final status negotiations and created some transnational effects. Former KLA fund-raiser Krasniqi voiced some threats in a 2005 documentary that arms continued to be shipped to Kosovo on a small scale and that larger repercussions would follow if final status negotiations were not resumed soon (Klaartije 2005). The Atlantic Battalion issued a similar warning (Albanews Archives 2007). Lobby groups like NAAC officially disapproved of the violence (A7 2006). Nevertheless, a tacit understanding existed in larger diaspora circles that violence might be necessary to speed up the political process, but escalating violence could also harm Kosovo's chances to claim democratic progress. Hence, moderate activism—including in the diaspora—needed to be sustained.

The US administration's foreign policy stance changed in late 2004. International negotiations resumed in 2005 after former Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari was authorized to become a UN Special Envoy and develop a settlement plan for Kosovo's supervised independence. Between 2005 and February 2008, when independence was proclaimed with the agreement of the United States and the major European powers but without that of Russia and China, strong moderate diaspora mobilization prevailed. Diaspora circles saw a slight rift on how to further proceed, as more radical circles advocated unilateral proclamation of independence, and moderates advocated joint action with the international community (A8 2006 and 2007). Moreover, in 2007, a Kosovar Albanian billionaire from the Swiss diaspora, Bexhet Pacoli, established a group of 60 paid lobbyists in Washington, DC, to pursue Kosovo independence (Free Republic 2007). Backed by the US administration with vigorous advocacy for Kosovo's independence, moderates prevailed.

TYPE 2: Weak Moderation

Albanian diaspora mobilization in the United Kingdom before and after 2004 exemplifies weak moderation. In the causal pathway, decreasing violence in the homeland prompted the main secessionist elites to actively disengage with diaspora networks. Where diaspora mobilization existed, it was moderate yet weak compared to that in the United States. Diaspora entrepreneurs did not find a good reason to lobby the United Kingdom, which was mostly aligned with the sovereignty goal. Reinvigoration of diaspora networks occurred briefly after the 2004 violence in the homeland, but remained ad hoc. Processes of diaspora mobilization were primarily driven from the main secessionist elites in the homeland and not by the diaspora, but mobilization remained weak compared to that in the United States.

Political disengagement between the Kosovo-based elites and the UK-based diaspora took place almost immediately after the warfare ended for several reasons. Political activists, mostly associated with the KLA, relocated to Kosovo. Many educated diaspora members, mostly with experience in the information technology sector, returned to Kosovo hoping to find good jobs (International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2008). While some became dissatisfied and sought their way back to the United Kingdom, others were keen on voluntary return (Dauti 2009). Furthermore, the diaspora was disillusioned. In the words of community leaders, the government “forgot about the diaspora,” and their own role as Kosovo representatives in the United Kingdom was disregarded. Ordinary diaspora members were also disappointed because they sponsored both the LDK and the KLA prior to 1999, and some funds had been embezzled.9

A third reason for diaspora political disengagement was the support of Labour governments (Tony Blair until 2007 and Gordon Brown 2007–2010) for Kosovo's sovereignty. Although British foreign policy—alongside that of the United States—became less attentive toward Kosovo's final status in the first half of the 2000s, diaspora circles found no specific need to engage with policymakers and left this task to Kosovo's emerging institutions (A6 2009).

When the homeland's main secessionist elites no longer considered the diaspora important, diaspora entrepreneurs engaged in ad hoc moderate activism. A Kosovar committee met only sporadically (A5 2009). Activities shifted toward the communal realm: to open a Saturday school for Albanian children, a mosque, and a UK-Albanian online discussion forum for events and immigration matters (A3 2009; A9 2009 and 2010). Members were often mobilized to write to the UK media in response to negative articles—primarily in The Sun or The Sunday Times—portraying Albanians as criminals (A10 2009).

Two instances of political behavior demonstrate that diaspora entrepreneurs distanced themselves from radical processes in Kosovo during postconflict reconstruction. These instances challenge literature asserting that identity-based traumatic motivations are central to the behavior of conflict-generated diasporas. UK-Albanians disapproved of the 2004 mob violence, mostly because it created a bad image of them and Kosovo's independence struggle, not because they viewed it as politically, culturally, or humanely wrong. In this context, interviewees mentioned that a narrative existed to tacitly agree with local developments and that “nobody could stop people in Kosovo from taking matters in their own hands if they gained no support for independence elsewhere” (A11 2009). While no threats were issued publicly, moderate mobilization slightly increased, but remained weak.

In another example, diaspora entrepreneurs offered little support for the radical Vetevendosje movement in Kosovo, despite its attempts to extend its networks to London in the second half of the 2000s. This movement pursued external sovereignty for Kosovo by challenging the international institutions that effectively ruled it and used sporadic violence to back up its claims. Politically active Kosovar Albanians in London considered this movement as fulfilling the personal ambitions of former student leader Albin Kurti, rather than expressing support from the broader community. They considered the sporadic violence associated with the movement's political activism problematic because it could spoil opportunities for an institutional path for independence.

With the 2005 opening of final status negotiations, the United Kingdom became part of the Contact Group to find a political solution, alongside the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. In a close transatlantic partnership with the United States, the United Kingdom agreed that independence was the only viable option for Kosovo's future (Thornton 2007). Blair even “summoned UN Envoy Ahtisaari to London to explain the absence of the concept of independence from the document” (Pettifer 2007).

Anticipation of Blair's departure as UK Prime Minister in 2007 was considered likely to strengthen the Serbian position in the end game, especially if a Conservative government were to come to power (ibid). Hence, moderate diaspora activism was further reinvigorated. Activists sought connections with the cross-party group “Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination.” According to a diaspora activist, its chair, Lord Nazir Ahmed from the House of Lords, helped diaspora activists secure some funds to build their mosque in London and travelled on a trip arranged by them to Kosovo (A9 2009 and 2010). On Lord Ahmed's invitation, former Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi gave a speech in front of a packed audience in Parliament in December 2007. He spoke about “an irreversible course to secure independence in the very near future” and his hopes that the UK Government would not hesitate to recognize the new state (Nagalim News 2007).


This article sought to discover conditions and mechanisms through which transnational diaspora mobilization becomes moderate or radical when the original homeland experiences challenges to state sovereignty. It focused on the Albanian diaspora mobilization in the United States and the United Kingdom vis-à-vis the Kosovo independence movement during four conflict periods: the repression (1989–1998), the violent warfare (1998–1999), the immediate postconflict period after NATO's 1999 military intervention (1999–2004), and between the 2004 Kosovo riots and the 2008 proclamation of Kosovo's independence. This article developed four types of mobilization—radical (strong and weak) and moderate (strong and weak)—and demonstrated causal pathways linking the independent variables with the different mobilization types. Radicalization in the diaspora is more likely to occur if high levels of violence exist in the homeland, and lower levels of homeland violence are associated with moderation. Yet, how the causal pathways lead to the four mobilization types depends also on the conjuncture of levels of violence with the strength of the main secessionist elites' linkages to a particular diaspora.

This article contributes to existing literatures by adding more in-depth understanding of the contexts in which transnational diaspora mobilization operates. Scholarly assertions that emotional identity-based reasoning rather than rational calculations drives diaspora mobilization could be better understood if viewed in the context of the timing of events and processes. While the Albanian diaspora was largely driven by identity-based ties during the acute phases of violence, rational calculations dominated diaspora behavior prior to and in the aftermath of that violence. Moreover, diaspora institutions built for secessionist purposes need not necessarily be more radical than those with a broader agenda. Both the older “Vatra” and newer LDK in the United States were moderate. Moderation depended on the policies of the main secessionist elites that became transnationalized; when they turned radical through ethnic outbidding, diaspora networks became radicalized too.

This article opens up a scholarly venue to understand how the position of diaspora entrepreneurs in a particular state becomes important for the sovereignty struggle. So far, scholarship has argued that size and economic capacity of diasporas are relevant as global material resources for rebel groups. A diaspora's position is an underestimated nonmaterial dimension. The main secessionist elites consider diaspora entrepreneurs residing in a global state with major decision-making capacity over the sovereignty struggle as highly important for lobbying. The main secessionist elites sustain their transnational linkages with that diaspora even after they weaken their relationships with diaspora entrepreneurs living in other states. This does not mean that a diaspora will not be solicited for fundraising, but that its lobbying capacity could be prioritized. Diaspora lobbying is also prioritized in a state with a pluralist system of interest representation, where lobbies could be easily formed rather than cultivated in the long term through the party, business, and trade union system as in countries with elements of corporate interest representation.

How do these findings apply to a larger universe of cases of conflict-generated diasporas linked to sovereignty conflicts in the original homeland? First, political context matters for local strategists in their global calculations on how to allocate scarce resources. Diasporas are not the only actors to “think locally and act globally” (Lyons and Mandaville 2010), but a homeland-based secessionist elites do so as well. They consider the political context of a diaspora seriously. For example, for the mobilization of a Palestinian diaspora to resolve state sovereignty disputes with Israel, the UK political context offers easier access than that of the United States. Effective Palestinian lobbying is almost blocked by a powerful US-based Israel lobby. A relatively strong Israel lobby exists in the United Kingdom too, but public opinion, media, and the trade unions are more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Second, different types of diaspora mobilization could occur not simply due to different phases of a conflict spiral, but depending on the strength of the linkages between the main secessionist elites and the diaspora. The same level of violence in the homeland can induce stronger or weaker responses in the diaspora. For example, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabkh in 1991–1994 prompted the small Armenian diaspora in the United Kingdom to establish an All-Party Parliamentary Committee and lobby with mixed results a relatively unsympathetic Parliament. In contrast, a large Armenian diaspora in the United States utilized its effective lobby to influence US foreign policy, and in 1992, the US Congress passed an act prohibiting US foreign aid to Azerbaijan. In both cases, mobilization was moderate, but strong in the United States and weak in the United Kingdom.

Finally, diaspora entrepreneurs utilize religious linkages differently to mobilize for sovereignty goals. For the Kosovar Albanian diaspora in the United Kingdom, emphasizing an Islamic identity was low on the political agenda and seen as a potential handicap to achieve sovereignty. For a Palestinian diaspora, sovereignty-based claims are more closely intertwined with an Islamic identity. In a global world of strategic mobilization across various geographies, the nature of these linkages and their intersection with host-state and homeland contexts need further examination.

  1. 1

    I use a definition of Basch et al. to define “transnationalism” as “the processes by which immigrants forge and sustain multistranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement. We call these processes transnationalism to emphasize that many immigrants today build social fields that cross geographic, cultural, and political borders” (Basch et al., 1994:7).

  2. 2

    Interviewees were identified through secondary sources and/or selected on the basis of snowball sampling. Interviewees included diaspora entrepreneurs (formal leaders of organizations, informal leaders of movements, student political entrepreneurs) or governmental officials active with regard to the diaspora. Interviewees are identified as A1, A2, etc., for confidentiality.

  3. 3

    On conjunctural effects and causal pathways, see George and Bennett (2004:234–239).

  4. 4

    International legal sovereignty indicates the juridical recognition of an international legal entity. Domestic sovereignty denotes the abilities of domestic authority structures to control activities within their territorial borders, Krasner 2004.

  5. 5

    The social movements' literature demonstrates that violence causes mobilization of the repressed in the long run, but does not consider diasporas as likely agents involved in this process. See Aminzade et al. (2001); Petersen (2002); Bob (2005). This study adds this dimension.

  6. 6

    This was a short telegram warning Serbia that the United States would employ military force if a conflict erupted in Kosovo.

  7. 7

    Under “transnationalization” I mean the extension of the main secessionist elites' pursuit of ideas, strategies, and tactics to diaspora circles, whereas diaspora politics starts mirroring the politics of these elites to a large degree.

  8. 8

    Emotions can be a cause or intervening variable in processes sustaining violence in ethnic conflicts (Petersen 2002).

  9. 9

    My interviewees primarily in the United Kingdom voiced concerns about the misuse of funds collected during the 1990s, since the LDK solicitation for funding in Europe was more pronounced than in the United States, where the diaspora was initially singled out to contribute more by lobbying.