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5.1.1: Transnational solidarities: ICT, Friendship and Diasporas
Friday, 04/June/2021:
10:00am - 11:30am

Session Chair: Larry Swatuk
Technical chair: valerie charest
Location: Room 1

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Engaging in Foreigner Friendships: Learning English and more outside the classroom in rural Vietnam

Georgina Alonso1, Hiếu Thảo Nguyễn2

1University of Ottawa, Canada; 2Tra Vinh University, Vietnam

In recent decades, Vietnam has structured itself to be more open to international integration, which has encouraged increasing numbers of foreigners from the Global North and elsewhere to spend time working, volunteering or researching in Vietnam. Vietnam has also been developing a national strategy for encouraging English-language learning in line with economic growth plans that aim to move the country into upper middle-income status by 2035. This paper seeks to understand how friendships between English-speaking Global North foreigners on temporary placements abroad (volunteers, workers and researchers) and Vietnamese students studying English become entangled with national policy goals, personal and professional development goals, and the social status of English-language learners in rural Vietnam. Through a case study at Tra Vinh University in the Mekong Delta involving a survey and qualitative interviews with Vietnamese students, we unpack how Vietnamese students who are motivated to improve their English-language skills perceive the presence of English-speaking foreigners in their community and how the dynamics of friendship-seeking unfold. While much has been written about intercultural interactions based on temporary placements of Global North participants in Global South communities around the world, many studies have centred on the Global North participant’s identity, motivations, privilege, ethics, and/or impact. We chose to add to this literature by focusing principally on the underexplored agency of the recipient community in pursuing or engaging in intercultural friendships, even when these community members are not directly involved in the work or projects of the foreigners in their communities. We also seek to understand how the presence of Global North foreigners is perceived more broadly, the degrees of genuineness of friendship, and what benefits (and consequences) are gained by members of the recipient community through these friendships, especially in terms of English-language skill development.

Decolonization through Diaspora: Development Initiatives from the Second-Generation of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada

Akalya Atputharajah

University of Ottawa, Canada

As the decolonization of development has emerged as an increasingly important agenda, so has the reconsideration of various actors and their roles in the development sphere. Diasporas have long been considered important bridges between the Global North and South, for reasons such as their knowledge of languages, understandings of culture, interpersonal networks and more. However, they also have the potential to engage in processes such as the decolonization and localization of development, due to their multiple, overlapping positionalities. In fact, one way that some of the complexities of decolonizing development can be explored is through second-generation diasporas’ experiences with their initiatives to help people in their countries of ethnic origin. Through the lens of Bourdieu’s social fields, an examination of the space which spans the country of a diaspora’s ethnic origin and their country of settlement can help to uncover the power dynamics which influence diasporic members’ ideas about their own identities, and how those ideas impact their beliefs about their roles in development as well as the decisions they make to exert influence back onto their social fields through development initiatives. Using in-depth interviews with second generation members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Canada, this paper explores the development initiatives from this group and how their ideas about their own identities impact and are impacted by their development experiences. This paper finds that that second-generation members of this diaspora recognize that their Canadian upbringings have influenced some of their ways of knowing, such as their understandings of development, but that their initiatives also help to decolonize development in ways such as fostering inclusion in the Canadian development sphere, promoting localization, and tackling racism in development.

The Role of ICTs and Mobile Money in Somalia’s Development Ecosystem

Mohamed Elmi

Ryerson University, Canada

Mobile money is rapidly transforming various sectors and economies worldwide. Somalia is one country that has been transformed by emergence of mobile money. In 2017, the World Bank estimated that 73% of the Somali population over the age of 16 use mobile money services. At the same time, Somalia relies heavily on the remittances to pay for children’s education, social services and provides an investment funds for small businesses. The United Nations estimates that close to 40% of families in the country are dependent on the $1.3 billion remittances per year. Accordingly, remittances companies account for a large segment of the financial sector in Somalia. And yet, both the remittance and mobile money systems function in spite of a lack of a traditional financial system. Mobile money and the underlying technology is at the heart of the supports the daily existence of millions of Somalis. How this system functions and its role as the economic backbone of the country is little understood. Thus, the aim this paper is to analyze the crucial role served by mobile money in the delivery of the billions of remittance dollars into the country. This study is guided by the main question: What role does mobile money and the Somali diaspora in the Greater Toronto Area, through the remittance system, play in Somalia’s development ecosystem?

In order to answer this question, we began this study by setting a baseline understanding of the Somali population in Canada and Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Next, a survey of 143 Somalis who have remitted internationally in 2017 was conducted. Finally, small–sample interviews were conducted with some members of Somali Money Transfer Organizations (MTOs) in the GTA to understand the business climate and the type of mobile money applications used.

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