State-led talent return migration programme and the doubly neglected ‘Malaysian diaspora’: whose diaspora, what citizenship, whose development?

Sin Yee Koh

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper questions the assumptions of ‘diaspora’, ‘citizenship’ and ‘development’ underlying diaspora strategies targeting a specific pool of overseas Malaysian ‘talent’ migrants. I examine the Malaysian state's discursive attempts to construct a carefully contained economic ‘diaspora'—the ‘Malaysian diaspora'—through its talent return migration programme. In this process, there is a portion of the ‘Malaysian diaspora’, especially non-bumiputeras (sons of soil), who are doubly neglected and excluded: first, from access to full and equal citizenship (which arguably contributed to their emigration in the first place); and second, from eligibility and recognition to participate in Malaysia's talent return migration programme. However, recent political activism calling for electoral reform and overseas voting rights challenges state-constructed visions of the ‘diaspora’ and their expected roles in advancing ‘development’. This paper concludes by highlighting questions raised by the Malaysian case, linking these explicitly to how diaspora strategies—as they have been conceived, practised and contested—challenge the broader Migration and Development paradigm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-200
Number of pages18
JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • bumiputera-differentiated citizenship
  • diaspora strategies
  • diaspora-led activism for overseas voting rights
  • emigration of Malaysians
  • included and excluded diaspora
  • talent return migration programme

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