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Russian Academic Diaspora in Socio-Economic Field: Difficulties and Perspectives of Co-operation

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 05-05-2011
Мир России. 2011.  Т. 20. № 1. С. 51-73. 
Тематический раздел:
Migrant flows and diasporas have become an important phenomenon in the modernworld. Although diasporas differ in their scales, they definitely demonstrate thepotential for being an important and often underestimated policy tool. This paperreviews the opportunities for cooperation with homeland, considering the exampleof the Russian academic diaspora in social sciences (the data from a descriptivepilot study, competed in autumn-winter 2008). The chosen focus is interestingbecause a) the studied community is small and questions its own attribution todiaspora, b) highly skilled professionals seem to present a special case for alldiaspora studies, tend to be more independent from the rest of their compatriots,and to integrate closer into the host culture, c) social science was underdevelopedin the Soviet Union and remains rather isolated from the general flow of studiesin contemporary Russia, thus limiting the attractiveness of return option.While some countries are competing for the highly skilled migrants, otherseither try to regulate emigration flows or develop the policies, enabling the turnof the brain drain into the brain gain. The latter became a popular topic, alsobecause of its relevance to the agenda of so many countries all over the world,including the most developed ones.Whether Russian academic diaspora in socio-economic field could be anoticeable change agent in developing Russian research and education; what arethese people, are they interested in having more cooperation with Russia; how itcould be stimulated - that was the overall perspective of the study, and it definedthe logic of the following text.High-skilled migration became a popular phenomenon in both reality andacademic studies. If the normal migrants need an identity in a host society, theprofessionals get it with their job affiliation, and, hence, they do not need toseek or create one. Also the use of the term ‘minority’ is often inadequate whiledescribing Babylonian crowd, which forms many departments or laboratoriesin the developed countries - thus the very essence of diaspora phenomenon isquestioned by this category of people.Instead of solving the problem of adaptation to the new society, the migrantsof this type seem to maximize the professional opportunities, which are oftenbetter in the host, than in home countries. Thus they often do not demonstratemost of the attributes, expected from a migrant - sticking together with the other people of the same origin, supporting ethnic networks, etc. - they do not need thatassistance, as they get it through the job. A situation that stimulates emergence ofnetworks: a migrant needs to find the ways in the society is substituted by muchmore individualistic perspective: ‘the society (through the host institutions) assiststhe specialists to be integrated’ or at least does not create any additional obstaclesand provides the necessary support (e.g. visa support, insurance, housing, etc.).Integration through professional networks is often easier, as they are alreadyestablished and recognized in the host society, such networks are often denseenough to provide the necessary support, and the colleagues help to integrate alsopsychologically and culturally.Diaspora could also be seen as a resource, opening additional opportunitiesin social or political space for its members: through creating own associationsimmigrants establish many contacts, at least with other immigrant associations,third-sector organizations, and the local authorities. Again high-skilled migrantsmight find integration into professional community more beneficial thanaddressing the diaspora as a tool for establishing themselves in the host society.Some studies suggest that as long as the migrant researchers are familiarwith the social systems in both the host and the home country, they could serve asa special link between both, stimulating the circulation of intellectual resources.Thus it could be also expected to find a well-integrated community, sharingthe same or close values and interests, and searching for the ways for furtherexpansion - ready to integrate the new members, etc.Finally, one should expect to find the Russian community abroad as fairlyheterogeneous: complicated history of Russia in the 20th century has createddifferent identities for ‘Russians’, meaning both geographical and culturaldiversity. The definition ‘Russian’ could be attributed to those, associated withthe Russian empire, its huge territories and mixed history, thus covering mostof the so-called ‘Russian-speakers’. It could also deal with the ‘Russian-Soviet’divide, and the different views on country’s past and future it is creating. Eachdefinition of ‘a Russian’ in a mixed social environment of a host country loosensthe diaspora tights further.Several key findings are discussed in the article. Those include:Heterogeneity of the category in question. Internationally integrated socialresearchers of widely defined Russian origin make a mixed group with verydifferent background, different relations to Russia and its academic community,and presumably different identities (the question, which was not addressed in thestudy).Globalised logic of career-making dominates over any ethnic identity. Theresearchers have positive feelings about Russia, often are interested in the socialprocesses there as a real or potential subject for their research, but it does not meantheir readiness to move to Russia, neither their preference to cooperation with otherresearchers of the same origin in or outside the country. Career considerationsdefine the further move of the well-integrated researchers. The origin does notplay an important role, because the community is too small and the researchtopics are too diverse. Thus the term diaspora in its standard meaning is not fully applicable to the category in question - these people form a special professionalcommunity, where work identity and work-related networking dominate.Broader focus is possible, while looking for the ways to attract internationallyrecognized researchers. Smaller importance of ethnic identity however broadensthe pool of researchers, who might be interested in cooperation with their Russiancounterparts. In the case of large country with many special processes, interestingfor social researchers, there is a good chance of attracting not only those, relatedto the country by the background, but also those, looking for interesting data andgood research opportunities.A number of suggestions on the formats and conditions of cooperationbetween internationally recognized and local researchers is made - these schemescould be applied in different countries, not only in Russia.
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