How does migration affect economic development? In this episode of the Governance Podcast, Volha Charnysh (MIT) talks to Humeira Iqtidar (King’s College London) about this complex relationship, drawing on extensive fieldwork and archival data on forced migration in Post-World War II Germany and Poland.


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The Guest

Volha Charnysh joined MIT’s Department of Political Science in the fall of 2018. In 2017-2018, she was a fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She received her PhD in Government from Harvard University in May 2017.

Dr. Charnysh’s research focuses on historical political economy, legacies of violence, nation- and state-building, and ethnic politics. Her book project examines the long-run effects of forced migration in the aftermath of World War II in Eastern Europe, synthesizing several decades of micro-level data collected during a year of fieldwork in Poland, funded by the Social Science Research Council and Center for European Studies.

Dr. Charnysh’s work has appeared in the American Political Science ReviewComparative Political Studiesand the European Journal of International RelationsHer dissertation won the 2018 Ernst B. Haas Best Dissertation prize, awarded by the European Politics and Society Section of the American Political Science Association, as well as the Best Dissertation Prize, awarded by the Migration & Citizenship Section. Dr. Charnysh has also contributed articles to Foreign AffairsMonkey Cage at the Washington Post, National InterestTransitions OnlineArms Control TodayBelarus Digest, and other media.

Skip Ahead

0:55: How did you get interested in these research themes?

2:15: One of the things that is less studied is the impact that World War II had in this particular way—Eastern Europe was transformed in a very profound manner. I saw in your research that you basically collected information at the municipality level—how easy was that? What was contained in that data?

4:47: You mentioned the Polish diaspora coming in from the USSR. I was curious, did the Polish diaspora speak Polish? Because one of the things that you talk about in terms of the composition of some of the more heterogenous municipalities later on – is there linguistic diversity as well?

6:13: Coming to your overall book project, I’m curious about the argument you’re building. What is the overall thesis and how does this microdata play into that?

8:15: So we have a picture of these different municipalities, some more heterogeneous than others, and as I understand it your argument is that in the short term, or at least initially, the more heterogeneous communities will have a deficit of social capital; certainly there’ll be less solidarity. And because of that, they are more likely to turn towards a third party for enforcement of norms—in this case, the state. But the next step is that the state actually builds capacity that at a later stage can allow for more economic development.

11:52: What does this mean, then, in terms of the development of the nation? Because we have these somewhat different communities – some that are more closely bound to each other and others that are not – how does that feed into your specific example? That is, Polish national identity and the making of the Polish nation?

13:40: Would you say that your argument now contradicts what you were saying earlier, which seems like there is a big regional difference in terms of these populations and Polish national identity is somewhat conflicted because of this division?

14:35: So you do make a distinction – depending upon the kind of state, this level of dependence upon the state may or may not lead to economic development. Do you work through different kinds of state responses to communities demanding or working closely with the state?

19:35: The larger implication that I drew from what you’re saying is that there is a more complex relationship between communities, diversity and economic development in particular than this singular notion that the more homogenous a community is, the more social capital there might be, and the more prosperity we may see there.

22:06: It’s interesting you mention the relatively small differences because the context that I work on—South Asia—one of the interesting things about South Asia is that there is just immense diversity that people contend with on a daily basis, in terms of religious, ethnic, linguistic diversity. So slightly out of scope, I was curious about the levels of homogenisation or diversity that are acceptable in the popular imagination, because it seems to me that within the European context there is greater acceptance of homogeneity whereas most other parts of the world contend with more diversity on a daily basis.

25:42: Going back to Poland, one of the questions I had was also whether you can see any patterns of support for a more homogenous Polish identity on the one side and integration with the EU on the other side?

28:46: With that I wanted to return to the question of state socialism, and I thought you said something very interesting about this idea that we see state socialism and we use it as a black box, putting a lot of things into it. With this particular example, how would you break down state socialism? What are the different stages and versions?