Visualising the foreign and the domestic in diaspora diplomacy: images and the online politics of recognition in #givingtoindia

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Diaspora diplomacy blurs the traditional conceptual dichotomies that map domestic and foreign policymaking efforts. Addressing how such distinctions are varyingly produced requires greater engagement with the way that diplomatic practice modulates the associations between belonging, nation and territory. This paper applies a semiotic analysis to a case study of the images circulated through the social media campaigns of the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indian (IDF-OI) between 2016 and 2017, a quasi-governmental organisation tasked with channelling diaspora philanthropy into state and national social and development projects. It shows that the connotative potential of images simultaneously positioned Indian diasporas as territorial stakeholders within these domestic agendas, whilst also generating performative representations of the diaspora as an extra-territorial global public. It argues that the images circulated through the IDF-OI’s digital platforms legitimised those particular voices that served both ideas, thereby empowering those with existing structural advantages. This paper suggests that with the increased use of social media in diaspora diplomacy, scholarship should engage with the richness of online platforms and the ambiguity of images as a specific component of those spaces, to better understand how diasporas are mobilised as non-state actors in contemporary international political affairs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020


  • diaspora diplomacy
  • indian diaspora
  • semiotics
  • digital geographies
  • philanthropy

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