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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finally A Few Good Books about the American Diaspora

There is precious little research into the 6 million U.S. citizens and their progeny living outside of the United States of America.  Americans abroad are not part of the US census so they are not counted as part of the U.S. population.  We have no direct representation in American politics and are often overlooked by American lawmakers even though many of us do vote.  Few people in the homeland know who we are and what we are up to (and let's be honest some of us like it that way).

What I have learned in my twenty years abroad is that we are delightfully diverse.  Americans abroad reflect the homeland population - they come in all colors and creeds and work in a variety of occupations.  In my time I've had the honor of meeting:  retired military, professors, English teachers, writers, musicians, journalists, psychologists, laborers, small business owners, and IT professionals in Europe, Asia and North America.  I can only guess at what I would find in Australia or South America but I bet  you would find the same mix there too.

Back in 2011 I started asking myself if American abroad constituted a diaspora or not and I wrote this post An American Diaspora?  Two years later I am even more convinced that there is one that has been quietly sleeping abroad outside of the consciousness of the American homeland.

Today that diaspora is waking up and organizing because of the challenges we are facing today with FATCA and citizenship-based taxation (and not just those things - there is a long list of issues we care about and we are learning to be vigilant when it comes to the homeland government and its wacky ideas).

I don't think it is a coincidence that we are now becoming the object of some serious research.  Two books are coming out at the end of this year that I plan on reading as soon as they hit the shelves (or are available for download).

Migrants or Expatriates?: Americans in Europe (Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship) by Dr. Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels.  Many of us participated on her on-line survey and some of her findings have already been published.   According to Amazon this book will be out on January 24, 2014.

The Citizenship of Americans Living Abroad: Democracy and Those Who Leave by Dr. Katya Long.
I have no other information about this one but it looks fascinating and I am eager to get a copy when it comes out on January 15, 2014.

Americans Abroad, How Can We Count Them?  I found this one purely by chance and I've a copy to be delivered to my mother's house here in Seattle.  This book which came out in 2010 to little fanfare is a discussion about how to count Americans abroad by the U.S. Congress House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Sub-committee on the Census.  I am hoping for insight into why exactly the U.S. government makes no attempt to count (or contact) its "Domestic Abroad."

And finally this is a good place to mention once again a study that was published back in 1992.  The authors spoke with Americans in Australia and Israel and did a comparative analysis.  They asked and got answers to questions like:  Why did they leave?  Did they intend to stay when they arrived?  Did they plan on coming back to the U.S. ?   

Bonne lecture!


A broken man on a Halifax pier said...

Thanks for this, Victoria.

Re.: Americans Abroad, How Can We Count Them? - IIRC Americans Abroad a number of years ago tried to stitch together a rough estimate by looking at Americans in as many national censuses as they could come up with. (the Canadian 2006 census, for example, looked at citizenship, and counted Americans, at least self-identified Americans, along with )

In the long run this may be a better approach than having the US Census try to work extraterritorially.

Patricia Moon said...

Thanks for this info Victoria, will look forward to reading these. Re-reading a few articles about the difficulties of counting USCs abroad, I am struck by the attempts to get the word out in 2004. The GAO report states $7.8 million was spent in preparing, implementing and evaluating the 2004 test.
I am somewhat stymied by the fact that there has never been, to my knowledge, any similar effort made to educate USCs abroad as to FBAR, etc. A bit off-topic perhaps but just one of those little nagging things that continue to bother me.

DAvS said...

Another book you should add to your must-read list is "The Unknown Ambassadors" by Phyllis Michaux, founder of AARO and of AAWE before that.
She describes the beginnings of the Americans abroad movement, giving generous credit to all involved. It is, as she once described to me, "a real page-turner". Out of print now, but often one can pick up an inexpensive used copy on one of the Amazons.
A good history lesson, and a reminder to us all that we are building on foundations set up by some pretty feisty folks.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

I'm here at my Mom's house tracking the book on the census on Amazon. It's "in transit". Nuts. :-)

@Patricia and a Broken Man, I did get some more info about what happened with that 2004 attempt from someone who was there. It's a great story and once I read the book I will write a post about it (provided of course I get permission to pass along some of the info I received.)

@DavS, I have been wanting to read that one for a long LONG time. I'm going to add it to the above post and I will try to get my hands on a copy once I get back to my other home. Thanks for pointing it out.

Janet said...

In "The Greater Journey Americans in Paris",David McCullough writes about the Americans who went to Paris to learn and to work from the 1830's to the 1920's

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Well, damn. It looks like we have the embryo of a book list for Americans abroad. I found some more titles on Goodreads that might be interesting....