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6 The Croatian Diaspora Transnationalism, Class, and Identity The Croatian Diaspora and the Politics of Identity The concept of diaspora gained considerable currency in the sociology of migration in the 1990s.1 The idea that originated in the historic experience of the scattering of Jewish people outside their native land implies that a community—normally a nation inhabiting a compact territory—experienced a forced dispersion (Safran 1999). The separation of parts of the national whole thus often carries tragic or at least nostalgic connotations, and leaving the homeland is often construed as a collective trauma that in the collective memory becomes the tie that binds. The connection between scattered communities and the homeland is essential in defining the diaspora; the homeland , either real or imagined, is a source of identity, value, and loyalty (cf. Brubaker 2005). It can be said that every diaspora is a migrant community, but not every migrant/ethnic community is a diaspora; a consciousness of a common belonging to a nation and a distant homeland, and usually also acting upon this consciousness, defines the diaspora (Tölölyan 1996; Safran 1999). The diaspora is therefore an eminently transnational phenomenon. So far, however, the theorizing of diasporas and transnationalism have been kept separate even though the two notions are obviously related and grew in popularity and use at the same time.2 Another commonality of the two concepts is that they have been extensively used and their meaning consequently has become stretched to accommodate various political and theoretical agendas (Brubaker 2005). What is in one place described as diaspora in another place appears under the large conceptual umbrella of transnationalism, usually i-xiv_1-258_Coli.indd 157 9/23/08 11:11:07 AM 158 . migration, class, and transnational identities meaning various political, cultural, and even economic ties between migrants and their original homelands. As mentioned however, diasporas are often connotative of historically enduring strong emotional ties to the homeland, usually in relations to some historic injustice that needs to be redressed, whereas transnationalism has a more pragmatic and contemporary sound. Still, “diaspora” has been used to describe phenomena as vastly different as Jewish diaspora, “African diaspora” (which started through the slave trade in the sixteenth century and continues today through the refugees outflow), and “Australian diaspora” (close to a million globetrotting expatriates in search of cross-cultural experiences and better career prospects. See Hugo 2006).3 This chapter links the two concepts through the idea of “diasporic transnationalism ,” which describes a collective nostalgia as well as political engagement in support of the homeland of Croatian emigrants during the Yugoslav political crisis of the 1980s, the war for Croatian independence in the 1990s, and its aftermath. This type of diasporic transnationalism, gradually demobilized in the 2000s, emanated from a typically diasporic feeling of the lost homeland and a tragic exile. It also came from a need to redress the historic grievances felt by many Croatian political émigrés. They assumed leadership of Croatian communities abroad and were focused on the quest for Croatian independence from communist Yugoslavia. Between 1945, when the shortlived Independent State of Croatia (1941–45) was abolished by victorious Yugoslav communists, and 1991, when Croatian independence became reality as part of the historic tidal wave that swept away eastern European communism , Croatian émigrés around the world had a public image of an intensely politicized diaspora dominated by nationalist leaders. This especially applied to the Australian branch of Croatian diaspora, where the connection to the homeland of the most vocal part of the community was intensely emotional and political. Its pronounced anticommunism and separatist agenda made it a clear-cut case of long-distance nationalism. This does not mean that all, or even a majority, of Croatians in Australia were nationalists, but the Croatian separatists were the most vocal part of the community and they created a certain public image. Croatian diasporic nationalism has had two peaks. The first was during the 1970s after the “Croatian spring,” a Croatian nationalist movement, had been suppressed by the Yugoslav communist authorities in 1971, and the second was during the war for Yugoslav succession in 1991–95, which politically mobilized a large number of Croatians in Australia. In the 1990s, the patriotic diaspora did not spare any effort and provided political as well as financial support to their homeland fighting for independence. i-xiv_1-258_Coli.indd 158 9/23/08 11:11:07 AM the croatian diaspora · 159 What the Australian media reported about Croatians over the postwar...


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