Contexts of Diaspora Citizenship – Transnational Networks, Social Participation and Social Identification of Somalis in Finland and in the U.S.

The research project Contexts of Diaspora Citizenship – Transnational Networks, Social Participation and Social Identification of Somalis in Finland and in the U.S. (1 September 2012 – 31 August 2016) studies the transnational networks of the Somali, their social participation and national identification in Finland and in Minnesota, U.S.

Previous research has shown that the integration of immigrants in Finland has not been completely successful. In Finland, the Somali are the group that faces the most racism, and their level of education, language skills and level of employment is low compared to other immigrant groups. On the other hand, according to recent research data, the Somali participate in the activities of organisations and associations relatively actively and are more satisfied with their health and quality of life than immigrants of Russian or Kurdish background, for example. The research project reflects on what could cause these attitudes that seem contradictory when observed from outside the group, and reflects on what they say about the ability of Finnish society to integrate immigrants and promote their inclusion as citizens.

Minnesota has the largest concentration of Somali in the U.S., and many of the challenges for them are similar to those in Finland. On the other hand, the Somali have also succeeded in integrating into Minnesota and participating in tsociety actively there. They own and manage hundreds of businesses, they work as university professors, and the number of highly educated Somali increases continuously.

In addition to the comparable integration and citizenship legislation analyses, statistical demographic materials, and interviews of experts from different ministries and important organisations, the research project also collects various interview materials from the Somali. The aim is to use comparative study to highlight the problems in integration into Finnish society and its structures in particular, and consider what could be done about them.

The research project is funded by the Academy of Finland, and it is implemented in cooperation with the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences. The project is led by Päivi Armila, D.Soc.Sc., Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Eastern Finland, and coordinated by Jussi Ronkainen, D.Soc.Sc., Director of Juvenia Youth Research and Development Centre at the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences.