Homeland Pilgrimage: Roots and Routes of Transnational Diasporic Engagement

Project coordination: Dr. Tsypylma Darieva

How and why do migrants’ descendants maintain their attachment to the ancestral homeland? What are the main motivations and routes of transnational engagement among the second and later generations of diasporic members? Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Armenia and the United States, this study highlights those transnational activities that generate and mobilise new emotional links to the ancestral homeland. Similar to other Eastern European nations, Armenia—usually perceived as a country of outflow migration—has recently become attractive for a new inward migratory process. The study examines the changing character of transnational flows and diasporic attachment to the homeland, with implications for the whole concept of the diaspora-homeland nexus, beyond one-way return migration and homeland tourism.

Transnational flows of money, people and ideas from economically more developed nations to a post-socialist ‘developing’ country are powered by a new generation of Armenian-American non-profit and non-state diasporic organisations. They employ a variety of ‘soft tools’ of engagement such as temporary homeland trips, civic volunteering and philanthropy that mobilise the attachment and create new social fields of engagement. These interactions build a new pattern of global mobility for migrants’ descendants, the ‘homeland pilgrimage’.

This book thus seeks to contribute to the studies of cross-border transnational mobility at the intersection of return migration, diasporic activism and pilgrimage studies. The author offers an ethnographic account and an analysis of social imaginaries, political claims and emerging infrastructures of a ‘sacred’ journey among diasporic people that transcends classic pilgrimage studies.