Who is acting for what change? A relational approach to transnational engagements of Afghans in Britain and Germany

This paper investigates why Afghans in the wider diaspora take action in certain ways. It builds on the analysis of transnational activities and different ‘spheres of engagement’ (Van Hear 2015). With the help of qualitative data obtained through in-depth interviews and participant observation I first explain how informants come to direct their activities towards certain spheres of engagement and how these engagements implicate ideas of change. In a further step I use my findings to discuss the notion of diasporas as agents of change. I show how relational sociology helps to specify the structuring effects of the social context of my informants. In particular, I identify enabling and constraining structures and explore how informants exercise agency and creatively use available resources by taking action in one or several spheres of engagement. The relational approach disentangles the effects and variabilities of multi-layered structures and thus develops a more precise understanding of why people engage with their home countries in certain ways and what forms of agency are involved if people take action.