Comparison of Returnees’ Contributions to the Transformation of Cambodia


  • DATE / TIME:
    2013•09•18    12:30 - 13:30

    Joint UNU-MERIT/Maastricht School of Governance Seminar: “Navigating a River by its Bends. A Comparison of Returnees’ Contributions to the Transformation of Cambodia”

    In this seminar, Dr. Gea Wijers (Erasmus University College, Rotterdam) will present research that grew out of the question of why Cambodian–American and Cambodian–French returnees employ different strategies in working for Cambodia. Why does the first group often start an NGO while the latter would rather work for Cambodian government?

    The study explores, describes, analyzes and compares narratives on migration, institutional entrepreneurial activity and return by a small sample of these returnees. This has resulted in the construction of multiple case studies that illustrate the experiences and activities of Cambodian–American and Cambodian–French transnational institutional entrepreneurs. This subject is linked to the societal debate on the ways in which the broad spectrum of institutional entrepreneurial activities, may impact the development of an emerging nation.

    One of the more significant conclusions to emerge from the study is that the social capital in (trans)national networks is even more versatile than previous research has shown. Not only can it provide individuals with benefits through their membership of these networks, but also, in the dynamics of social relations, “negative social capital” may be produced, which actually restraints relationships. A lack of social legitimacy, trust and acceptance limits the returnees’ opportunities to initiate institutional change in the Cambodian context of cultural competition, political contestation and looming social conflict.

    For more information, see the Calendar of upcoming events page on the UNU-MERIT website.

    About the speaker

    After spending two years in Cambodia as a strategy and management advisor to the Ministry of Environment, Gea Wijers started working on PhD research inquiring into Cambodian returnees as institutional entrepreneurs. Part of the Cambodia Research Group at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, she currently is a staff member at the Erasmus University College (Rotterdam) and an independent consultant.