Transnational lives in the shadow of repression

– diaspora youth and the struggle for democracy. A research project within the research program migration and integration.

Project leader: Camilla Orjuela External link.

Period: 2020-2022

Seat of learning: University of Gothenburg

Project title: Transnational lives in the shadow of repression: Diaspora youth and the struggle for democracy

What is the project about?

This project investigates the role of the second generation, the children of migrants, in what one might call the global struggle for democracy. Authoritarianism is, alongside armed conflict, a key factor for forced migration, and non-democratic regimes increasingly seek to stifle dissent not only within but increasingly also across borders. Given the special position of the second generation –having roots in at least two countries–, this project aims to better understand how authoritarian regimes engage with or control their second generation diasporas, as well as the ways in which these youths either support or resist them.

The research team will map four authoritarian states’ strategies for engaging their young generation abroad by analyzing policy documents and conducting interviews. Subsequently, the research team will study the young generations’ motivations, opportunities and obstacles for either supporting or resisting the authoritarian regimes in their parents’ homelands.

Research questions

  • What strategies do repressive states employ to mobilize and/or control their second generation diasporas?
  • What are the motives, opportunities and obstacles for second generation diasporas to mobilize in support of repressive government of their homeland?
  • What are the motives, opportunities and obstacles for second generation diasporas to mobilize against repression in their respective homeland states?

The project is designed as a qualitative comparative case study of four authoritarian states in Africa and the Middle East with sizable diasporas. Whilst taking its point of departure in the Swedish context, the project identifies relevant groups, organizations and initiatives in Sweden, Europe and the world. The researchers will analyze policy documents and other documentation, as well as conduct interviews with relevant actors.

Project participants

This is a collaborative project between the School of Global Studies (SGS), University of Gothenburg, and the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Hamburg. SGS, which hosts the project, has a strong tradition of research on democratization, social movements and migration. A Center for Global Migration is placed at SGS and functions as a resource and hub for research and policy dialogue on migration in Gothenburg. The project’s three researchers have extensive experience of research on the project cases.


Hirt, Nicole (2021). Eritrea’s Chosen Trauma and the Legacy of the Martyrs: The Impact of Postmemory on Political Identity Formation of Second-Generation Diaspora Eritreans. Africa Spectrum. 56(1):19-38. doi:10.1177/0002039720977495 External link.

Hirt, Nicole & Abdulkader Saleh Mohammad (2021). Eritrea’s self-reliance narrative and the remittance paradox: Reflections on thirty years of retrogression. Remittances Review. 6(1). External link.

Hirt, Nicole (2021). Forced Migration from Eritrea and Regime Stabilization, MAGYC Policy Brief, External link.

Orjuela, Camilla (2020). Passing on the torch of memory: Transitional justice and the transfer of diaspora identity across generations, International Journal of Transitional Justice, Volume 14, Issue 2, 360–380, External link.

Orjuela, Camilla (2021). Navigating labels, seeking recognition for victimhood: Diaspora activism after mass-atrocities. Global Networks, 1– 14. External link.

Orjuela, Camilla (2020). Unga tamiler i diasporan engagerar sig för rättvisa i Sri Lanka. 29 August, Sydasien, External link.

Wackenhut, Arne (2020). Understanding Protest Diffusion: The Case of the Egyptian Uprising of 2011. Palgrave McMillan.




  1. Project grant for research into migration and integration 2023

    The Swedish Research Council has decided on the applications to be awarded project grant for research into migration and integration. Our total grant amount for 2023–2027 is 76 million SEK.

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    A research project within Grant for research communication in migration and integration

  3. "Being Swedish and being yourself”: Dramatized research communication as democratizing work

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