Faculty Research Profiles


How do migrant associations form relationships with their countries of origin? What guides the dynamics of these relationships? Can migrant remittances be harnessed to promote economic development and social progress for the home country? These are some of the questions that Assistant Professor of International Political Economy, Katrina Burgess is trying to answer. While examining the changing role of civic organisations and NGOs in development and their relationships with the State, she decided to examine the impact of investments by migrant associations in the United States in community development in their hometowns on local governance.

"There is a growing recognition of how important migrants in the United States are to the development of their home countries. Remittances have become a hot topic for developing country governments, and international development agencies as well", says Burgess. Explaining that remittances have become the second largest capital inflow to developing countries behind foreign direct investments, and one of the most stable sources of foreign exchange earnings for developing countries, she points out that it is an important policy issue right now, and "particularly interesting in the context of democratisation and decentralisation in Latin America".

Her comparative study is designed to explore the local politics of collective remittances in El Salvador, and Mexico. "I am really interested in knowing how relationships between the state and groups in society that organise in less privileged sectors develop" says Burgess. "There is a line of continuity from my previous work where I studied relationships between political parties in power and labour unions in Venezuela, Mexico and Spain. In my current research, I examine similar interactions, but between migrant associations as transnational civil society actors and governments in their home countries in efforts to promote community development and what that participation of these transnational actors does to governance at the local level.”

Primarily intended for academics and professionals working in the field of international development, she hopes that her research is also well-received by policy makers in national governments. Particularly those governments that send out migrants and having received remittance flows, are currently seeking creative solutions to allocate those financial resources for the pursuit of developmental or collective goals.