Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Jeffrey Bennett

Second Advisor

Aimee Carrillo-Rowe


Since the 1990s, governments of migrant sending and receiving countries, policy institutes, the United Nations and allied international financial institutions, and migration researchers in the academy have shown a heightened interest in the role that diasporas can play in the development of the Global South. As government responsibility to social welfare recedes and as humanitarian aid shrinks, these stakeholders have looked toward the wealth offered by diasporas. The resultant discourse of diaspora and development, the dissertation argues, is changing the meaning of the discursive construction of "diaspora" in its articulation with the concurrent construct of "development". This presents scholars with new challenges in studying diaspora and transnationalism.

The expansion of who gets to be counted as diaspora and its articulation with newly extended diasporic citizenship limits the nature of citizenship to the performative and to the exclusive domain of giving. Accordingly, the study examines the communicate and relational practices of Association for India's Development (AID), a 1000-volunteer-strong migrant Indian non-profit organization in the United States, to critique and expand the diaspora and development discourse. Through an extended case study of AID's practice and performance of citizenship, this study makes contributions to theories about the space of `home' and its relation to the practice of politics; migrant presence and performance of citizenship in the Global North; diasporic interventions in the discourse of development; and strategic mobilizing for broad-based social justice issues.

First, the dissertation unpacks the meaning-making practices that AID volunteers associate with the construct `development', and demonstrates how the volunteers' discourse of "development as sustainability" challenges notions of charity and the brain metaphor trafficking in policy reports and scholarship. The study then examines the treatment of diasporic imaginings of home in theory and migration policy, juxtaposed with AID's practices related to India arguing that practices of deconstructing home/nation allow this organization to center diasporic privilege rather than loss. This allows for less common alliance-building practices with populations from historically marginalized religious, caste and class backgrounds and a centering of marginalized voices within multiple diasporic homes. The dissertation also examines annual die-ins by AID's Austin chapter, staged in solidarity with survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 that complicates the notion of presence in theorizations of transformation in new forms of citizenship. The study finally takes an ethnographic peek into an education project that used to be supported by AID in India. The backstage organizing work studied, suggests that what seems like a single-issue movement strategically employs universal discourses of `quality education' for organizing multiple publics.

The study required multi-sited critical ethnographic fieldwork in the United States and in India, participant observation, in-depth interviews, and rhetorical/discourse analyses of AID's practices. The study offers a people-centered exploration of diaspora engagement with social development, which is difficult to grasp solely through research informed by macro-level and quantitative data. Overall, this work complicates the monolithic understanding of development in current research on diaspora and development, demonstrating that local and transnational actors both participate in, and challenge the development discourse to communicatively and relationally address issues of social development and transnational environmental justice.


Bhopal, Development, Diaspora, India, Migration, Non-Profit Organization


xiii, 237 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 233-237).


Copyright © 2015 Renu Pariyadath

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