Recognition of the productive potential of Diasporas emerges as a positive factor in various spheres of their origin countries (CoO) (Mahroum et al. 2006). Not only have national governments perceived expatriate communities as a multidimensional resource, but also entities such as municipalities, business associations and trade unions, have identified this social resource as part of their own objectives and future development strategies. Pressured by the overlapping needs for greater international competitiveness and the existence of a new era of communication and information, especially since the 1990s, states, organisations and institutions have experienced a growing requirement to face the challenges imposed by globalisation, the free circulation of ideas, services, capital and products. In parallel, there has been a rise in intensity of both the transnationalism and the circulation of workers, technical and management specialists and their families (Song 2014). Transnational practices are now seen as a potential acceleration of social capital relations and connections between home and expatriate citizens or ethnic descendants (Gamlen 2006).

The following are increasingly emerging as the key facets involved in migratory policies exclusively targeting emigration: (1) policies destined to involve Diasporas in other countries; and (2) policies destined to respond to the growing need to provide support to national residents internationally, guaranteeing them additional political and social rights both in CoO and in their respective residence countries (CoR). Underlying these policies is a rising interest in maintaining the bonds between non-resident citizens and their CoO through enacting Diaspora engagement policies. The importance of maintaining such bonds (Granovetter 1983) stems from the emergence of the network effect that is susceptible to leveraging through citizens residing abroad, acting in cooperation with their compatriots within their CoO. The main purpose would be the creation and maintenance of collective social capital which would then be able to maintain and strengthen the relationships between the CoO and CoR, within a utilitarian perspective (Portes 1996).

In this context of construction and maintenance of connections between emigrants and their CoO, in addition to state mechanisms and institutions, there is particular relevance in the role played by the different types of emigrant associations with their central objective, in general terms, encapsulated by the maintenance of the migrant’s culture of origin and the development of a collective identity between the emigrants. Such entities frequently assume a dual mediating function: between the emigrants and the official Portuguese institutions and between the social, cultural and political contexts of the CoR and the Portuguese abroad (Marques and Góis 2013). The study of migrant associations has demonstrated the growing complexity of the reality of migrant organisations and the multiple functions that they perform across the contexts prevailing in both the CoO and CoR (see also Vathi and Trandafoiu 2023 in this special issue for more details on this relation). Less studied has been the evolution and diversity of the organisational landscape of emigrants, which reports a high level of heterogeneity whether in terms of dimension, organisational type, history, function, or socio-demographics of members, among other aspects. Ascertaining what are today the organisational forms of emigrants, their structures, configurations and scopes of action, constitutes a central task in analysing the means that emigrants have in maintaining bonds with their CoO. As recognised by Melo and Silva: “the migrant associations perform a singular role in the emigration policy and for the external relations of the Portuguese state, which is considered a species of core for their ‘communities’ dotted all around the world” (2009: 35). This, therefore, becomes relevant in building an updated image of these associations and their respective types that considers the organisational emigrant structures to derive from multiple factors, such as the demographic, economic and social characteristics of the emigrants, their pattern of residential concentration, their regional and religious origins, and their political outlooks (Schrover and Vermeulen 2005). Our initial research question tried to deal with different layers of past migratory flows and the contemporary social networking processes of distinct generations of Portuguese migrants worldwide. Our research question was, “are contemporary formal and informal social networks of Portuguese migrants able to politically, economically and socially engage with Portugal and Portuguese society?”.

This paper is structured as follows. First, we present a literature review and covers key aspects of the specificities of Portuguese emigration. Then we will discuss theoretical perspectives to analyse the policies and practices of binding non-resident citizens to their CoO. The third section outlines the methodology employed. The fourth section presents the results and deals with the current organisational structures and institutions of Portuguese citizens abroad. The final section presents the conclusions and briefly discusses the study’s results and limitations.

Literature review

The study of migrant engagement policies and practices, thus the multiple forms that states deploy to maintain relationships with their communities internationally and the effective involvement of citizens living abroad with their CoO, is only relatively recent in the literature on international migration (Gamlen 2008; Østergaard-Nielsen 2003; Collyer 2013; Lafleur 2013; Waldinger 2015). The existing studies analyse, frequently in independent approaches, the policies that a CoO may apply to include their citizens living abroad (thus, extra-territorial citizenship policies or the extension of rights (Bauböck 1994) and the different means of interrelating between emigrants and their CoO (thus, the transnational practices of migrants, e.g. (Fibbi et al. 2008)).

Analysing the role of the state as regards these questions, these engagement policies have constituted the most explored dimension regarding emigrant related issues. Most studies analyse the scope and reach of CoO policies towards their communities living internationally as a means and form of “extraterritorial citizenship” (Bauböck 1994; Itzigsohn 2000; Barry 2006; Bauböck 1994). The right to vote abroad and dual citizenship form parts of such state strategies in order to include their non-resident citizens in national society. Other studies recognise the diversity of engagement policies and practices implemented by states, and combine their analyses with the sociocultural, political and economic activities that are put into practice to boost engagement with migrants (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003). As well as bureaucratic reforms and investment policies, state services also supply international and symbolic policies designed to “guarantee that migrants remain in long lasting and long-distance relationships” (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003: 587).

Gamlen (2006, 2008) classified these engagement policies according to the contribution they make to expanding citizenship beyond territorial borders and further distinguishes two specific types of engagement policy: (a) “community construction policies” that foster the maintenance and recognition of Diaspora communities; (b) “empowerment policies” and mechanisms that bring about the extension of privileges of belonging to Diaspora communities (policies for “extending rights” and “extracting obligations”).

These types of engagement policies, above all, seek state or institutional means of reaching out to emigrants. They, thus, do not consider either the interactive practices that emigrants build and maintain with their CoO or the effective usage that emigrants make with the engagement policies enacted by the state. The policies are, from this perspective, exclusively unidirectional: from the state to the individuals and exclude, from a conservative perspective, the potential existing in engagement policies that might adopt a broad spectrum and interrelate with currently existing practices within the field of the information and communication technologies.

From the perspective of emigrants, the relationships that they maintain with their CoO fall within the framework of the “transnational practices of migrants” (Marques and Góis 2008; Fibbi et al. 2008). This frequently encapsulates an approach perceived as “globalisation from the bottom-up” (Guarnizo and Smith 1998) in which the state plays only a minor but not insignificant role (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003; Itzigsohn 2000). The involvement in political activities and the economic sphere through encouraging national development (see, De Haas 2006) represents one of the most studied themes. The stabilisation and institutionalisation of these practices have contributed towards the emergence of transnational societies in which emigrants remain bound to their CoO through dense and stable bonds over time and space. The Diasporas constitute one of the forms that such transnational societies may assume (Faist and Bilecen 2019).

Even while recognising that Diasporas may constitute distinctive ‘communities’ (Cohen 2022), this highlights how they “are defined not by essence or purity but rather by recognition of the need for heterogeneity and diversity” (Rutherford 1990: 235). Hence the relevance of bringing into this discussion the phenomena around the “homogenisation” of non-resident citizens, whenever talking about the Diaspora networks, leading to the belief that there is “only one type” of Diaspora for each CoO. Within the scope of producing a collective identity, the differences – regional, cultural, religious, social, among others – of the communities tend to be annulled, constructing an “ideal type” model for each Diaspora (Noirjean and Vodoz 2009: 15) which, in practice, is far more segmented and plural. In this sense, it is relevant to adopt the perspective of Brubaker (2005: 13) who maintained that “instead of talking about ‘a Diaspora’ or ‘the Diaspora’ as an entity, a limited group, an ethno-demographic or ethnocultural fact, it might be more worthwhile, and certainly more accurate, to refer to postures, projects, demands, idiomatic expressions, practices, etc. of the Diaspora” (Brubaker 2017). These may indeed be varied in nature and take on different characteristics, thereby originating the configurations of heterogeneous Diasporas, for example, in accordance with their length of historical presence, their level of spatial dispersion, the intensity of their orientation towards their CoO and the maintenance of clear identity boundaries (Brubaker 2017).

The Portuguese associative movement in different countries

In Brazil, the support and educational/literary associations founded in the nineteenth century were joined in the twentieth century by regional associations, folk dance and sporting groups as well as chambers of commerce. Some of these associations have, over the course of time, redefined their objectives, expanded their target publics and, in some cases, become social and sporting associations targeting the entire population irrespective of the nationality (for example, the Portuguesa dos Desportos de São Paulo association) (Melo and Silva 2009). In many cases, however, they have been unable to undergo this transformation. Two core motives emerge: (1) the absence of new emigrants and, with this lack of new members, a simultaneous contribution towards the ageing process of the associations; (2) having their headquarters located in urban areas to which there are no new migrant flows and, therefore, even while there is a resurgence in the Portuguese migratory flows, the ageing of the association takes place in parallel. We may encounter examples of such associations in Brazilian cities such as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro (but also in South Africa, in Venezuela, and in the USA) when considering the longest established migratory flows. In Europe, and throughout the post-World War Two migratory waves, we may already witness a similar trend in some regions of Germany and in France, where the migratory careers of the first-generation Portuguese arrivals are now drawing to a close (with the return to Portugal of many emigrants), but where some associations survive even if only with residual levels of activity.

In France, Muñoz (2002) distinguishes four periods of Portuguese cultural creativity in the last four decades (carried out above all within an associative context): (1) the 1960s, when the associative movements were dominated by popular cultural initiatives (football, folk dance and festival/commemorations); (2) the 1970s, corresponding to a period of organisation and immigrant campaigning against the Portuguese colonial wars and in defence of worker rights in France; (3) the 1980s, with the stabilisation of immigration and the development and diversification of the Portuguese associative movements; 4) the 1990s, that witnessed the arrival of the descendants of immigrants born in France into the associative movements and their relative dissidence towards the associations of their parents (through setting up autonomous organisations or joining French associations or those of other immigrant communities). Adopting a distinctive temporal framework, Cravo (1995) considers three key periods in the Portuguese associative movement: between 1960 and 1974, and 1974 and 1980, and since 1986. In the first, the core objective of the associations was the maintenance and rediscovery of the cultural heritage that the immigrant brought with them in the hope of one day returning to their CoO. In the second, the dynamics of the activities ongoing within the associative movement were accompanied by the establishing of structures that strive to federate the multiple different associations launched in the meanwhile. The third period sees Portuguese associations open up to French society (reflected for example by the founding of Franco-Portuguese associations) and other immigrant communities (Cravo 1995).

The associative movement in Germany has an equal and traditionally strong level of expression with at least 196 associations existing in 2008. Of this total, 17 are Catholic Missions, 39 Folk Groups and 140 Recreational and Cultural Associations (Embaixada de Portugal em Berlim 2008, cit. in Pinheiro 2009). Similar to events in other countries, these recreational and cultural association undertake a varied set of activities, including sports, musical performances and other activities of a cultural nature (Pinheiro 2009). The dispersion of these associations throughout Germany mirrors the distribution of the Portuguese population with the largest clusters of associations in the industrial centres of West Germany (Renânia in North Westphalia, Baden-Wurttemberg, Hesse and Hamburg) that are home to the majority of the Portuguese citizens in Germany. According to Pinheiro (2009), in the majority of cases, these associations have less than 100 members and with only limited financial resources.

The associative movement in South Africa underwent expansion especially after the 1960s, when Portuguese emigration to this country became more intense (despite the Associação Lusitana de Socorros Mútuos already existing in Fordsburg since 1908/09) (Bessa 2009). Johannesburg hosts a significant proportion of these associations in keeping with the significant Portuguese community living there. Between 1970 (especially after the Portuguese decolonisation process began) and 1990, there were approximately 30 associations in the city that led some authors to recognise the fragmentation of the Portuguese community around associations of a regionalist character (Bessa 2009: 44). However, analysis of the reality of the associative movement across South Africa reveals that this fragmentation does not reflect a characteristic of the entire South African associative movement with the core characteristic underpinning the founding of associations being ethnic and not regional in nature (Bessa 2009). One special feature of the associative movements in South Africa is the Academias de Bacalhau, launched in 1968. This is an associative movement “without fixed headquarters and with simple rules, (…) [that] are today an unprecedented case of longevity and expansion” (Bessa 2009: 129). In addition to their dimension of socialisation around a meal that features cod as the main dish, these Academias seek to “promote Portuguese prestige, culture and values in the host country and the relationships with other communities” (Bessa 2009: 127).

The scale of the Portuguese associative movements in the USA would seem to confirm the statement made in 1831 by Alexis de Tocqueville that “America is the country in the world that takes greatest advantage of association and that applies this powerful means of action to the greatest diversity of objects” (de Tocqueville 2005: 219). In addition to the association’s transversal to other emigration CoRs, such as France or Brazil, in which the Portuguese meet to watch football, socialise at tables serving Portuguese gastronomy and also include one (or more) amateur football teams and/or a folk-dance group, they coexist with others that emerge out of the redefinition of American and Portuguese ideologies in relation to their migrant populations, especially the Prince Henry Society in New Bedford (Feldman-Bianco 1992). This organisation resembles the Rotary Club with its members drawn from immigrant and Luso-American liberal, industrial and trade professionals with the objective of raising the profile of “elite” Portuguese culture in the region as well as the life chances of its members with the corresponding organisation of classical music concerts, exhibitions, and conferences. Simultaneously, the objectives extend to boosting the image of the Portuguese in the region “from country folk and fishermen involved in popular religious rituals” (Feldman-Bianco 1992: 44).


Research on international emigrants and the Diaspora has seen a massive increase during the last decades, yet sampling and surveying them remain a major challenge, especially on a global scale (Findlay and Li 1999; Bauböck and Faist 2010). While various sampling methods are established in the field, most of them cannot easily be implemented globally due to their dependence on specific administrative or infrastructure elements, trustable registers or simply due to cost reasons (Vargas-Silva 2012).

We have adopted a flexible definition of a Diaspora to include the various formats of formal and informal engagement including, but not limited to, state-led Diaspora organisations, civil society and non-government groups led/owned by the Diaspora, student organisations, professional organisations, faith-based organisations, and community-based organisations. This study was based on a research framework based on two quantitative data collection instruments: first, a worldwide mapping of Portuguese associations; second a survey of the associations. For this last one, various sampling methods were applied including a proxy to a population register-based sampling (Careja and Bevelander 2018), and name-based telephone sampling (Prandner and Weichbold 2019). Thus, the quantitative data that are presented is the result of a systematic mapping of the associations, through the creation of a database with all the available information on associations of the Portuguese Diaspora and the application of an online survey to these associations carried out in 2016. In total, we have contacted 4525 associations, through different communication channels, with a total of 530 valid responses.

Discussion: current organisational structures and institutions of Portuguese citizens abroad

Identifying the different structures applied to organising emigrants dispersed across different locations around the world is a complex task that also includes its own inherent difficulties (Meyer et al. 2016). The most common means of getting in touch with the associative forms, as these same authors duly recognise, stems from the “social/institutional networks, including the websites of professional migrant associations, consular and diplomacy registration lists, higher education alumni lists and the interpersonal contacts of expatriates accessible therefore through the snowball effect” (Meyer et al. 2016: 205). However, even drawing on all the sources mentioned does not guarantee the obtaining of a complete map of the Diasporas and their different associative forms. The analysis presented below bears witness to these limitations and is thus both incomplete and partial.

There is recognition that associative structures are diversified and subject to continuous change: there are associations that, satisfied with the specific initial objectives of the founding generations, enter a stage of lethargy while others seek to undertake processes of reconfiguration to become a permanent feature in their CoR (Thränhardt 2013, see also Wackenhut and Orjuela 2023 in this special issue for more details on this relation). In this process, they need to deal with the specific dimensions of the organisational field in which they engage (for example, how to obtain sporting success in the system prevailing in their CoR) (Thränhardt 2013) and according to the functional logics of the different functional systems in which they are involved (religious structures, sporting systems, etc.) (Goeke 2010). We are therefore dealing with an organisational landscape made up of large, stable and well-established organisations while coupled with organisations with a more unstable character and, on occasion, with ephemeral or only temporary periods of existence.

Any perspective on the contemporary Portuguese Diaspora and its respective associative movement, from the outset, demonstrates a plural Diaspora. These associations divide up according to various lines and axes: time of founding; qualification of emigrants; regionalisms; differing missions and objectives, which provide some of the characteristics that underpin this differentiation. Furthermore, this associative network above all overlaps with the network of clusters resulting from Portuguese emigration since the nineteenth century and, hence, the dynamics of time in emigration destination impact on the dynamics of the founding, growth and closure of Portuguese emigrant associations (Table 1).

Table 1 Characteristics of Portuguese emigrant associations, Source: Mapping Portuguese Associations Internationally, 2016

The survey carried out demonstrates the extent of the associative movement across every continent, closely accompanying the different migratory flows that make up the national history and standing out as one of the most significant and highest impact “informal or institutionalised networks that the Portuguese have established within the emigratory context” (Melo and Silva 2009: 35). Thus, the most prominent periods for founding such associations generally track the ebbs and flows of Portuguese emigration. The trans-Atlantic cycle of Portuguese emigration led to the founding of many associations, the majority (89.8%) in the main Portuguese emigration destinations prior to the 1960s in both North and South America and especially in Brazil (44.9%) and the USA (37.8%). The founding of associations on these two continents continued at an intense pace throughout the following four decades while, nevertheless, getting overtaken by the intense associative activities launched in the European countries because of the Portuguese emigration flows emerging in the 1960s and 1970s, before the stabilisation of the Portuguese communities in these countries throughout the following two decades. Throughout the first sixteen years of this century, Europe continued to register the largest number of associations founded as a result of the renewed deepening of emigration to countries across this continent. From the 1960s onwards, the founding of emigrant associations on the American continents dropped very sharply because of the downturn in emigration to these CoRs (irrespective of the return to growth experienced in recent years) and the stabilisation of the Portuguese associative movement in these respective countries.

Detailed analysis of this data confirms the relevance of Portuguese emigration in the recent past to various European countries, especially to France, that in the survey carried out, registered 26% of the total of associations identified in Europe. The remaining countries, accounting for over one hundred associations, hold equal importance as destinations for Portuguese emigration. The Spanish case is particularly notable due to the numeric presence of Portuguese citizens (107,226 in 2015, according to the data from the Observatory on Emigration (Pires et al. 2016), not being reflected in the development of a dense networks of associative organisations.

Weighting the number of associations in each country by the Portuguese born population residing in the country, reports that Spain (eleventh in terms of the number of Portuguese associations) represents the country with the largest number of Portuguese citizens per association (2615 citizens per association), followed by Switzerland (1224), the United Kingdom (1129) and France (805).Footnote 1 The cases of Germany and the Netherlands demonstrate how the existence of a numerous population does not amount to a necessary condition for the founding and developing of intense associative networks. In both cases, the number of Portuguese citizens per association is among the lowest (506 and 470, respectively), indicating a greater disproportion between emigrants and associations.

The data spanning the American continents demonstrates how the USA and Canada host a larger number of associations than Brazil. This proves an interesting outcome given that this reflects how the longevity and the scale of Portuguese emigration to Brazil has not resulted in a larger number of associations than encountered in other continental American countries. While we are not able to carry out diachronic analysis of the associative movement in each of the national contexts, we may advance the hypothesis that the current lower number of associations in Brazil stems from the successive processes of the closure of organisations in keeping with the fluctuations in the number of Portuguese citizens, especially among the founding generations of these organisations. In these relative terms, Brazil and Venezuela present the largest number of Portuguese citizens per association (respectively 608 and 747) and with Canada and the United States reporting the lowest (520 and 384).

The statistics on Portuguese-speaking Africa report that this important past destination for Portuguese emigration also displays more developed networks of associative organisations, totalling around 90 associations. The remaining countries register only an incipient number of organisations, which to a large extent reflects the low scale of the Portuguese presence in most countries. Only Angola registers (or registered) a volume of Portuguese residents running into the tens of thousands (134,473 in 2015 according to the consular figures).Footnote 2

Types of association: a proposal for a contemporary classification

The function of these organisations is recognised whether in terms of integrating their members into CoRs or for maintaining the identity of the CoO (Caselli 2010; among others, Sardinha 2009; Schrover and Vermeulen 2005). This approaches how the activities of migrant organisations commonly develop around interactions between the host and the CoO and that consideration of both these facets that establish the ambiences of organisations enables a more complete understanding of their dynamics and forms of action. As relevant as analysing the potential and the limits of migrant organisations for the integration and/or maintenance of the migrant identity, especially because this interrelates with these aspects, this involves grasping the types of organisations founded by emigrants and the ways in which the state includes them within the framework of its policies targeting Portuguese communities internationally.

In the different periods detailed above, the type of organisations founded do not register any significant oscillations. Prevailing in each of the four periods, even if on a downwards scale, is the launching of organisations of a social, cultural or sporting type. In total, this type of association represents between 72.6% (between 1960 and 1979) and 51.0% (from 2000 onwards) of the associations founded in each period. In the last period, there is clearly a diversification in the type of organisation being founded with an increase in the proportion of online organisations as well as those holding economic, scientific and professional purposes (with the latter continuing the trend recorded in the previous period). Even while the evolution of the associations has adapted to the structure of the opportunities existing in each CoR, there is, in practically every country, a strong presence of associations interconnected with social, cultural, recreational and sporting activities as well as associations focused on the national and regional dimensions. This first regular feature is one of the signs of the cultural distances that are expatriated in conjunction with the emigratory movement, reproducing the characteristics of emigrants, their cultures and interests.

The traditional forms of collective mobilisation–associations and organisations, chambers of commerce, (in)formal academies or brotherhoods, social clubs or sporting clubs–as well as more recently: societies, alumni networks, informal groups within the scope of social or other networks–hold advantageous positions in mediating the aforementioned intersection between the CoO and CoR. As Grassi and Melo (2007) state, this type of organisation has exercised a dual mechanism for social inclusion: both maintaining proximity to the CoO and reaching out to the CoR. To this agglomeration of organisations, (almost always) with their roots in the dynamics of civil society, there are also the more formal organisations of institutional representation, including the embassy and consular networks, the Portugal Global–Trade & Investment Agency (AICEP), the autonomous region representations as well as of Portuguese public institutes with roles reaching beyond the national boundaries. In conjunction, these organisations and institutions constitute permanent international representatives of Portuguese state and society and act at the interface of various Diaspora and other Portugal-related networks.

The mapping of associations, undertaken in 2015 and 2016, enabled the ascertaining of the organisational types described in the literature and their presence in the different contexts of Portuguese emigration. In general, this finds that the associations identified and the activities undertaken are diverse in nature.Footnote 3 As stated above, social and culture-based associations are the most representative, constituting 52.7% of the association for which sufficient information was obtained to enable their respective classification. Even while forming a smaller, but nevertheless still important, contingent, there are the sporting associations. There are various associations that simultaneously serve social/cultural and sporting purposes, potentially including amateur football clubs or other sporting activities. Such associations are traditionally classified as ‘social, cultural and sporting’. In the data collected, 96.4% of the sporting associations were also sociocultural entities and with 55.2% of the sociocultural associations also holding sporting functions. The number of social, cultural and /or sporting entities founded has declined over the course of time, dropping from 86.3%, between 1960 and 1979, to 60.1% from 2000 onwards. This certainly represents a reflection of the changes in the national migratory reality as well as in the associative models set up, especially since the beginning of this century.

Evidence of such alterations emerges for example with the increase in the number of professional, business and student associations from 2000 onwards in conjunction with other associations that base their activities on the new information and communication technologies. An additional illustration of these changes’ stems from the progressive rise in associations that maintain a partial or exclusive online presence. Hence, while the majority of associations founded through to the end of the twentieth century had only a physical presence (66.5%) or conjugated this with an online presence (78.3%), the associations founded since the turn of the century have maintained an exclusively online existence (81.0%). Hence, there is an increasingly significant role played by organisations structured around a Facebook page or a website to share diverse information about the CoO and CoR, publicising working opportunities, describing migratory experiences and promoting socialisation events.

The traditional types of association referred to in the literature (social, sporting, cultural, religious, charitable and political), and in the survey carried out, allowed the addition of associations with different characteristics and that enabled progress towards a conceptualisation of a typology of contemporary Portuguese associations. This typology therefore sought to retain the features present in longer standing associations and simultaneously captured the specific characteristics of more recent associative types. Even while based on factors present in the Portuguese associative reality, the proposed typology, above all, displays a heuristic value and requires, as referred to by Barton and Lazarsfeld (1955, cit in Kluge 1999: 61), “subjection to detailed analysis at a later phase”.

Towards a typology of the Portuguese associative movement

Study of the characteristics, objectives and fields of intervention of the Portuguese associative movement enables the portrayal of the different types of association: traditional, religious, cultural, digital and knowledge. Even while each type presents its own characteristics, we are able to identify features common to each of the different types.

The first type of association identified refers to what we may entitle as ‘associations of the traditional type’. This refers to the (more) traditional type of associations, with a physical headquarters, members who pay fees and are frequently in attendance at the main building that generally contains a bar/café facilities. As such, this hosts events and parties for special occasions, for example for family birthdays and other anniversaries of its members. There is access to Portuguese television with access also to the subscription sports channels (such as Sport TV) that brings the community together along with other close members on days when the national team plays while dividing them on days of club league and cup football matches. On occasion, there is (still) a traditional folkloric dance group that preserves memories of a Portugal that corresponds ‘to the times’ of its members in Portugal. Forming part of this group are more specific subtypes such as the more regionalist-based houses (of Madeira; of the Azores; of the Alentejo, etc.) and the houses with allegiances to specific Portuguese football clubs. Instead of a folkloric dance group, there may be brass bands and choirs. Their main function is to nurture a social network of proximity for Portuguese citizens who are far from home. In sum, this is deemed to represent a home for those far from the lands of their birth.

The second type of associations, designated the ‘religious’, are connected to the Catholic Church (or more recently to evangelist churches) and focus their mission on maintaining religion-based bonds and cultures. This promotes religious charity, protecting the most disadvantaged and supporting those who find themselves in need of assistance. Examples of this type of association are the Catholic missions, the brotherhoods, and the catechist groups that are established within the scope of Portuguese parishes serving internationally located communities.

The cultural associations represent a third type based above all on promoting and preserving Portuguese culture and/or Portuguese cultures in a more pluralist approach. This group spans highly diverse subtypes of association and very often depend on the distance (measured in terms of time/space) in relation to Portugal, thus dependent on the time of their founding and their respective geographic location. This hereby includes the dynamics of the associations interconnected with the preservation, dissemination and promotion of the Portuguese language, in addition to those associations connected to gastronomy (such as brotherhoods or the bacalhau/dried cod academies) and those entities dedicated to specific gastronomic types and interactions, with a good example being the “Amigos da Caldeirada de Durban/ Friends of Fish Stew” in South Africa.

A fourth type of association, the ‘digital’, display all the characteristics that the literature attributes to “Digital Diaspora Networks”. Hence, whether making recourse to the digital social networks or their own Internet websites to bring together people, objectives and ideas around a multitude of criteria: places of origin (e.g. Sourenses around the world), regions of residence (e.g. Portuguese in Southend-on-Sea), particular cultural events, etc., these strive to aggregate Portuguese citizens living abroad whether on a national, supranational or global scale. This thus includes recent or already now traditional, ephemeral or more permanent groups, also extending across Facebook and Instagram. These associations rarely hold any traditional statutes or other legal configurations and, still more rarely, have any type of physical location/headquarters.

A final type of association, entitled ‘knowledge association’, refers to associations or networks based on knowledge and are correspondingly referred to in the literature as “Knowledge Diaspora Networks”. They represent a new type of association based on the sharing of knowledge and the need to build and maintain social capital or cultural capital. The best Portuguese examples of this organisational type are Asppa; Parsuk; Aggraff or Paps but also extending to such entities as ‘Diáspora dos enfermeiros/Nurses in the Diaspora’; Confederations and Chambers of Commerce; and Clubs and Societies. This type of association maintains a certain formality in terms of its statutes and with a clearly identified hierarchical structure. The means of communication arise from the potential generated by the information and communication technologies and applied to regularly promote activities susceptible to developing the respective objectives, including activities designed within the scope of bringing together associations with similar objectives present in different regional contexts.

As already highlighted by Melo and Silva, these constitute:

new associative formats that prescind from physical and local bases and seek to establish transnational networks of cooperation between Portuguese non-resident citizens living in different countries. These relational networks benefit from a vision of emigration as a Diaspora and fostering meetings and debates in virtual environments as well as occasional events in cities containing important migrant contingents (Melo and Silva 2009: 56).

Final considerations

The presence of 2.5 to 5 million Portuguese and Portuguese descendants in countries scattered around the world, closely interlinks with the development of various forms of social, political, cultural and economic mobilisation. The associative movement of non-resident Portuguese and their descendants is, in its core origins, a mechanism for the narration of the very history of Portuguese emigrations. Being outside of the country and seeking to maintain bonds with their fellow compatriots essentially involves maintaining a bond with the CoO (or that of their predecessors). This takes multiple forms, in accordance with the various types of organisations and/or institutions but always accompanying the communications configurations and technologies available at any point in time and, therefore, conveying their resilience regarding the physical distance to Portugal.

Contemporary Diasporas are today also (but not only), so well defined by Mahroum et al. (2006), as digital networks of knowledge dispersed globally but retaining daily contact with their CoO. Other terms also serve to define the networks currently in effect: intellectual Diaspora networks, Diaspora knowledge networks, Diaspora knowledge transfer networks. All of these denominations configure the appearance and consolidation of a new type of associative form, almost always interconnected with digital networks and the information and communication technologies. This constitutes a fourth type of associative movement in which the networked connections and networks are not necessarily physical, but which nevertheless does not undermine the bonds of participants. The development of this new associative format, in a network and by a network, whether formal or informal and on local, regional, national, or transnational scales, requires approaching it as an opportunity, especially as these may enable a broader recognition of the role that Diasporas may play, particularly in the socioeconomic development, integration and social cohesion between those residing in Portugal and those residing abroad.

Recent years have witnessed an intensification of the policies and initiatives designed to foster engagement with the Diasporas and to thereby leverage the development potential existing in terms of broadening and deepening the relationship between Portuguese society and its various generations of emigrants. The recognition of Diasporas as multidimensional resources has, within this framework, emerged as an opportunity for governments, civil society, municipal entities, professional and business associations, trade unions and companies, among others. The means of mobilisation for the different emigrant groups involve important opportunities for developing transnational practices (of different natures and types: political, economic, cultural, and social). Thus, these are activities that deepen the interrelationship between the places of emigrant residence and the bonds stemming from their origins (or the origins of their predecessors in the case of the descendants of emigrants). There is, however, only limited knowledge about these (multiple) forms of relationship between the CoO and their Diasporas (Marques 2014).

What actually happens, arises out of the great diversity of binding policies and practices undertaken by the state, integrating different levels of intensity, socio-cultural, political and economic activities. All of these activities seek to establish the conditions necessary for the emigrants to maintain a relationship, even if at a distance, with their CoO or ancestry and they can involve this country from the country in which they are residing. Two types of binding policy, identified in the literature, take on particular relevance within the framework of this present study: (i) Firstly, the “policies for constructing communities” designed to promote the maintenance and recognition of the Diaspora communities; (ii) Secondly, the “empowerment policies and mechanisms” that seek to deepen the privileges of belonging to these Diaspora communities (extension of rights and coverage of obligations) (Marques 2014; Gamlen 2006).

One of the leading characteristics of these policies stems from their drafting and design, above all being undertaken by the state or other institutions in the CoO. They, therefore, do not consider the interactive practices that non-resident citizens themselves construct and maintain with their CoO or the network that associations establish across other levels: between associations abroad; with Portugal across the local, regional and national territorial tiers; and with institutions and associations in Portugal. These engagement practices frequently get described in terms of ‘transnational practices’ of non-resident Portuguese either across the political, economic, social and cultural spheres or their involvement in activities fostering development in their origin contexts. In most cases, these are unidirectional (outside inwards) and only in a very few cases undertaken according to any plan or strategy. Analysis of the forms of mobilisation of Portuguese citizens living abroad identifies a great deal of heterogeneity in terms of their structural consolidation, scale, objectives, and the activities put into practice. In sum, all the associative migrant forms reproduce, to a greater or lesser extent, the diversity of characteristics prevailing in the migrant communities that either triggered their founding or that keep them active. The existence of diverse types of associations does not therefore come as any surprise even while their structuring into a typological matrix does enable their understanding and, correspondingly, building the dynamics for future relationships.