Finnish Voluntary Associations in Europe: Transnational Civil Society Actors in Different Polity Regimes
Social Sciences, Sociology University of Jyväskylä, Finland Jyväskylä, Finland
Today transnational communities are more connected to their societies of origin than ever before. Hence, it is questioned whether ethnic minorities fail to develop serious attachments to the host societies leading to the weaker cohesion in the immigrant receiving states. The focus on migrant associations sheds more light on this obstacle as associations are key actors, for example, in facilitating integration as well as maintaining links with their countries of origin. One gap in research on migrants, however, is a lack of knowledge about the variety of roles migrants´ voluntary associations have adopted in their new home countries whilst systematic comparative analysis of the impact of state regimes on migrant associations remains weak.
This study investigates the relationship between the polity regimes and the type and the number of Finnish voluntary associations in Europe using the previous literature, archive material, associations´ websites and the registry of associations´ contact information provided by the Finland Society and the Finnish Expatriate Parliament (FEP). The case of the 1.3 million Finnish emigrants around the world makes up an excellent migrant group to be examined as they have established about 1500 associations and are well connected to Finland through the cooperative forum, FEP. As it is argued that political structures constrain distinctive patterns of civic engagement either encouraging or discouraging it, the type of the Nordic regime inspires associational activity. Hence the influence of the relationship of Finland´s polity regime and the polity regime of the host society on associations is understood as reciprocal and dialectical. This paper also observes whether Finnish voluntary associations abroad reflect the typical characteristics of the associations located inside the borders of Finland and whether they change according to the polity regime. The hypothesis is that transnationalism does not have a significant influence on ethnic minorities´ attachment to host societies, but the type of the polity regime may be a better indicator of the sense of belonging.