Pushing back against the polity: how diaspora groups modify political opportunity structures

Audrey Ann Faber

Political Opportunity Structure theory stipulates that external forces - in the form of the polity - shape social movements (and organizations) from inception to end.  These external forces are considered to be the most significant determinant of the various facets of a group or movement: when/how mobilization occurs, what tactics are employed, and their success or failure.  If these facets are largely controlled by outside factors, the resulting question is how can these groups change their political opportunity structures to be more beneficial to their needs?

While Political Opportunity Structure theory is relatively commonly applied to traditional social movement organizations, it is only recently gaining traction as an appropriate theory to better understand diaspora movements.  This paper seeks to not only answer the question of how groups can change their political opportunity structures, but further the application of social movement theory to better understand diaspora movements.  This will be achieved through the analysis of three diaspora groups currently active in Canada (Ukrainian, Lebanese and Somalian) during periods of conflict in their home-country.  Through a qualitative, process tracing of these three groups, a pattern can be discerned to provide a roadmap of not only what successes these groups have had in their attempts, but also their failures - and why.