Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities

Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities


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Featuring essays by world-renowned scholars, Diasporas charts the various ways in which global population movements and associated social, political and cultural issues have been seen through the lens of diaspora.

Wide-ranging and interdisciplinary, this collection considers critical concepts shaping the field, such as migration, ethnicity, post-colonialism and cosmopolitanism. It also examines key intersecting agendas and themes, including political economy, security, race, gender, and material and electronic culture. Original case studies of contemporary as well as classical diasporas are featured, mapping new directions in research and testing the usefulness of diaspora for analyzing the complexity of transnational lives today.

Diasporas is an essential text for anyone studying, working or interested in this increasingly vital subject.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781842779484
Publisher: Zed Books
Publication date: 11/23/2010
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Kim Knott is Director of the AHRC "Diasporas, Migration and Identities" Programme (a £6.3 million investment), overseeing some fifty small and large projects, workshops and networks. She combines this with her role as Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Leeds where she continues to manage her own research projects, to teach research methods and to supervise student projects on religious diasporic communities, and religion, space and locality. Her first book was on what would now be called the "Hindu diaspora" in Britain (1986); her most recent on is The Location of Religion: A Spatial Analysis (2005). Her work has included articles over many years on migration, ethnicity, identity and religion, and more recently space and place. She has good contacts with scholars internationally as a result of her program directorship and roles in the International Association for the History of Religions and European Association for the Study of Religions. http://www.diasporas.ac.uk/Kim_Knott.htm; http://www.leeds.ac.uk/trs/staff/kim_knott.htm
Sean McLoughlin is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds working in the fields of Islamic studies and anthropology of religion, and teaching on Muslims, multiculturalism and citizenship. He is author of the forthcoming book, Representing Muslims: Religion, Ethnicity and the Politics of Identity (Pluto Press, 2007) and co-editor (with J. Cesari) of European Muslims and the Secular State (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2005) and many articles on British Muslims, Islam in Europe, and South Asian studies. His recent article on Migration, diaspora and transnationalism: transformations of religion and culture in a globalizing age is the final chapter in the Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion. He is Principal Investigator of the AHRC network, From Diaspora to Multi-Locality: Writing British Asian Cities, and co-convenor of the Muslims in Britain Research Network. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/trs/staff/sean_mcloughlin.htm

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Concepts, Intersections, Identities

By Kim Knott, Sean McLoughlin

Zed Books Ltd

Copyright © 2010 Kim Knott and Sean McLoughlin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84277-948-4



Martin Baumann

In contemporary discourse, exile and diaspora are often taken to refer to various national, cultural, religious and political groups and peoples. Earlier studies, however, identified the Jewish experience as the paradigm for both exile and diaspora. Such a focus on Jewish communities found its rationale in their capacity to preserve the 'law' outside the 'Holy Land', to live a life according to the commands of the Torah despite strong assimilative pressures from the 'host' society. The terms exile and diaspora have their origins in different linguistic and cultural settings – that of Roman legal terminology and of Jewish theology. Although they need to be distinguished theologically according to Jewish understanding, sociologically they refer to the same socio-political situation of the exiled and diasporized group.

General meaning of exile

The term 'exile' is resonant with ideas of forced emigration, displacement, social and political marginalization of an individual or a group of refugees. It aligns to experiences of loneliness, foreignness, homesickness and an enduring longing to remigrate to the place of origin. The Latin notions exilium and exul denote a temporary banishment, at times also asylum. During the first millennium bce, classical oriental empires used mass deportation as a means of punishment and exercise of power, forcing entire nations to leave home and to move into exile.

Generally, people refrain from moving into exile and staying there. Exile is a state forced upon individuals, groups or a nation; they are passive reactors subjected to this state. Exile is rarely sought. At times, though, individuals, entire groups and peoples may actively escape into exile in order to seek refuge and avoid persecution. Once politically secure in exile, these individuals and groups may actively work to support other refugees and to bring about a change in political oppression. Usually, exiles think of their exile as a temporary state and their focus of identification, attention and activities clearly rests with the territory and culture of their former home. Conceived of as transitory, the state of exile may end with repatriation and a radical change of political power back home.

Exile – historical coinage

In Western common knowledge, the notion of exile is predominantly bound to the experience of the Jewish people in the first millennium BCE. Exile is a term used by Jews of that time in both geographical and theological semantics: it refers to a concrete land, far away from Israel-Palestine and Judaea; and it refers to a fourfold theological scheme. According to this, God renders upon the Jewish people banishment into exile as punishment for breaking the law. As such, being forced into exile provides an explanation for the pitiful state. But it carries also advice and admonishment about how to bring exile to an end: to faithfully obey the law again, i.e. the 613 Jewish commandments and prohibitions (Hebrew mitzvot).

Jewish experience with exile started in the late eighth century BCE. Assyrian invaders deported members of the ten northern tribes of Israel to upper Mesopotamia. Further displacements to Assyria followed. In 597 BCE, Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judaea and deported large parts of the Judaean upper class. During the second punitive expedition in 587/586 BCE, the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. The deported Jews were settled at the 'waters of Babylon' (Psalm 137:1). They built houses and arranged for gardens and gradually integrated into Babylonian society. Religiously, however, Jews warded off assimilation and maintained the tradition of their forefathers. In 538 BCE, the edict of Cyrus ended the banishment and enabled a return to Judaea in 522 BCE. Only a minority returned, however, while the rest arranged for an enduring stay. They formed the nucleus of the later, famous Babylon diaspora (Neusner 1965–70). The completion of the restoration of the Temple in 515 marked the beginning of the era of the Second Temple (ended subsequently in 70 CE).

During the following centuries, Israel-Palestine remained a region of political instability and a war zone contested by Egypt and Persia, before Greece established its supremacy from 333 BCE onwards. Jews emigrated to safer places such as Asia Minor and to existing Jewish communities in Egypt to ply their trade and business. Alexandria in northern Egypt developed into a flourishing Jewish centre of commerce and learning. Here, Jews translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, which was their own vernacular and that of the reigning power. The evolved Greek translation, the Septuagint (third/second century BCE), coined the term 'diaspora' to address the various Jewish communities scattered all over the eastern Mediterranean (Barclay 1996; Cohen 1999; Grabbe 2008).

Diaspora as a neologism

The Greek noun diasporá derives from the composite verb dia- and speírein, adopting meanings of 'to scatter, spread, disperse, be separated'. The verb, which became more widely used in the fifth century BCE among classical philosophers and Hellenist writers, had a negative connotation. Epicurus, reported Plutarch, used 'diaspora' in the context of his philosophical treatises to refer to processes of dispersion and decomposition, a dissolution into various parts (e.g. atoms) without any further relation to each other. 'Diaspora' had an adverse, devastating meaning and was not used to imply a geographic place or sociological group. The Alexandrian Jewish-Greek translators of the Hebrew scriptures adopted precisely the disastrous connotations of current philosophical discourse (van Unnik 1993: 86–7).

In the evolved Septuagint, however, the noun diaspora and the verb diaspeírein were coined as technical terms to interpret Jewish existence far from the 'Promised Land' in light of an encompassing soteriological pattern. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew words for 'exile', 'banishment' and 'deportation', gôla and galût, were explicitly not rendered into Greek by the term 'diaspora'. Gôla and galût were understood as unique notions for the Babylonian captivity and exile. They were thus translated in the Septuagint by Greek words denoting movement under force (metoikesia) and captivity as a result of war (aìchmalosia), avoiding any equivalence between gôla and diasporá. Jewish-Greek translators of the third and second century BCE intentionally distinguished between galût and diasporá, adopting a new word to express neologically their situation of living outside Israel-Palestine (Arowele 1977: 46–7; van Unnik 1993: 81–4; Tromp 1998: 23).

Diaspora as part of a soteriological scheme

In retrospect, post-Babylonian Jews interpreted the Babylonian captivity theologically – that is, as God's punishment for their disobedience to the commands of the Torah. With the return to Palestine and Jerusalem, this punishment had come to an end. Living outside the 'Holy Land' subsequently – from the fifth century BCE on – was understood differently. In Egypt, Asia Minor and Greece, many Jews had become secure, established and quite successful. Nevertheless, they still interpreted residing outside Palestine as a transitory, miserable and unfavourable stay. It was understood as a preparation for, an intermediate situation until, the final divine gathering in Jerusalem. Basically, 'diaspora' took on spiritual and soteriological meanings, pointing to the 'gathering of the scattered' by God's grace at the end of time. The term was coined to form an integral part of a pattern constituted by the fourfold course of sin and disobedience, scattering and diaspora, repentance, and finally return and gathering (van Unnik 1993: 113–19; Tromp 1998: 18–19).

In Hellenistic times, Jews from the diaspora were able to travel to Palestine and Jerusalem. The large number of pilgrims gives ample evidence that Jews could have returned to Palestine. Most stayed, however, in the diaspora. Theologically, it was held that the gathering in the 'Holy Land' was not to be brought about by humans, but by God alone. All men and women in the diaspora could do to help usher in such a time was to live wholeheartedly in accordance with the commands of the Torah. In this way, apart from its indissoluble soteriological meaning and context, i.e. the interpretation of history with respect to God's saving grace, the proper term 'diaspora' also takes on meanings of admonition and a reminder to obey the Jewish law. Socioculturally, it appears that quite a number of Jews (certainly not all) fared rather well in cultural centres outside the Holy Land; the Jews of Alexandria and Sardis maintained religious and administrative structures of their own, with synagogues, gymnasia, baths, cemeteries and societies. Many preferred to stay in the diaspora, rather than returning to more or less regularly war-torn Palestine (Eisenstadt 1992; Barclay 1996; Baumann 2003; Gruen 2002).

Ensuing adoption of diaspora

In the first century ce, Christians adopted the term diaspora, but altered its soteriological meaning according to Christian eschatology. The individual writers of the different biblical stories and letters interpreted the early Church 'as a pilgrim, sojourning and dispersed community, in the understanding that it is the eschatological people of God' (Arowele 1977: 476). On earth, dispersed Christians would function as the 'seed' to disseminate the message of Jesus. The Christians' real home, however, was the so-called 'heavenly city Jerusalem', the goal of Christian pilgrimage.

Having become the state religion of the Roman Empire in the late fourth century, the idea of sojourn and diaspora quickly vanished in Christian memory. A millennium later, following the sixteenth-century Reformation and the formation of different Christian confessions, the term came to denote Protestants living in Catholic territory and vice versa. In the nineteenth century, owing to inner state migrations, diaspora became predominantly associated with confessional minorities.

Since the 1960s, with increasing transnational and global migrant movements, 'diaspora' was employed to denote a national, cultural or religious group living in a foreign land. Following African Studies (Harris 1993; Shepperson 1993), which compared the enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans to the expulsion of classical Jews, the term became widely used and popular in various social sciences. The increasing broadening of the term and its at times vague employment were criticized from the mid-1990s onwards, with scholars calling for more theorized and analytically useful usage (Tôlôlyan 1996; Cohen 1997; Vertovec 1997; Baumann 2000).

Varied connotations of exile

In contrast, the notion of exile did not encounter such popularity and fashionable employment in the twentieth century. During the 1930s and 1940s, many authors, intellectuals, artists, journalists and scientists, chiefly of Jewish birth, fled Nazi Germany for the security of exile in Britain and the USA. There, they initiated and assisted agencies in providing support for refugees, as well as analysing the fascinating power of the 'political religion' of National Socialism (Krohn 1998; Sheppard 2006). During the second half of the twentieth century, many people faced a similar fate, being forced to leave their home countries owing to political pressures and persecution. Among countless examples, the Tibetans, Cubans and Armenians all appeared prominently in the media (Lang 1989; Tweed 1997; Korom 1999). Indeed, Tibetans speak of their central Tibetan administration as a 'government-in-exile', while Edward Said underscores that: 'Modern western culture [...] in large part [is] the work of exiles, émigrés, refugees. In the United States, academic, intellectual and aesthetic thought is what it is today because of refugees from fascism, communism, and other regimes given to the oppression and expulsion of dissidents' (Said 2001: 173). Although exile is, in Said's words, 'the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: Its essential sadness can never be surmounted' (ibid.: 173), voices that also value exile positively as a place of freedom and innovation have become widespread. Palestinian, Iranian and African artists, musicians and poets in exile all refer to the possibility of meeting other people, of benefiting from exchange and encounter, and finding inspiration for new ideas. Nevertheless, reference to such voices is not intended to banalize the anguish and predicaments experienced. The memory and longing of the exiled are bound to the former homeland and they interpret their freedom to engage for political change back home.

'Exile', in contrast to diaspora, is seldom associated with religious connotations and semantics. It appears that its use relates more explicitly to political persecution and forced flight caused by a nation-state than does 'diaspora'. The latter, particularly in recent discourse, appears to relate to a state of enduring consciousness of living away from home, adapted to the new social and cultural context. In contrast, contemporary connotations of exile are resonant of a state of sojourn, estrangement and homesickness. The history and experiences of classical Jews, however, do not support such differentiations. The current attributions are rather the result of ongoing intellectual discourses and reasoning, coining the terms anew.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements viii

Map ix

Introduction Kim Knott Seán McLoughlin 1

Part 1 Concepts and theories

1 Exile Martin Baumann 19

2 Home and memory Femke Stock 24

3 Slavery and the black Atlantic David Richardson 29

4 Migration Nicholas Van Hear 34

5 Transnationalism Peggy Levitt 39

6 Nation, ethnicity and community Gerd Baumann 45

7 Multiculturalism and citizenship Tariq Modood 50

8 Post-coloniality Graham Huggan 55

9 Hybridity John Hutnyk 59

10 Cosmopolitanism Steven Vertovec 63

11 Social identities and creolization Robin Cohen 69

12 Complex diasporas Pnina Werbner 74

13 Space and movement Kim Knott 79

Part 2 Intersections

14 Diasporas and economies Claire Dwyer 87

15 Diasporas and politics Terrence Lyons Peter Mandaville 91

16 Diasporas, conflict and security Simon Turner 97

17 Diasporas and development Ben Page Claire Mercer 102

18 Diasporas and cities John Eade 107

19 Diasporas, race and difference Claire Alexander 112

20 Diasporas and gender Nadje Al-Ali 118

21 Diasporas and sexuality Kira Kosnick 123

22 Diasporas and religion Manuel A. Vásquez 128

23 Diasporas and language Jaine Beswick 134

24 Diasporas and material culture Philip Crang 139

25 Diasporas, literature and literary studies Ananya Jahanara Kabir 145

26 Diasporas and performance Helen Gilbert Jacqueline Lo 151

27 Diasporas, film and cinema Daniela Berghahn 157

28 Diasporas and media Karim H. Karim 162

29 Diasporas and cyberspace Victoria Bernal 167

Part 3 Empirical and metaphorical diasporas

30 South/North relations in the Americas Alex Stepick Carol Dutton Stepick Patricia Vanderkooy 175

31 Movements between 'white' Europe and America: Greek migration to the United States Anastasia Christou Russell King 181

32 The Russian-Jewish diaspora at the beginning of the twenty-first century Larissa Remennick 187

33 The Iranian diaspora in the West Sanaz Raji 193

34 How the Japanese diaspora in Brazil became the Brazilian diaspora in Japan Jeffrey Lesser 198

35 Migrations within China Flemming Christiansen 204

36 Beyond Tibet Dibyesh Anand 211

37 Sacred journeys, diasporic lives: sociality and the religious imagination among Filipinos in the Middle East Mark Johnson Claudia Liebelt Deirdre Mckay Alicia Pingol Pnina Werbner 217

38 Muslim travellers: homing desire, the umma and British-Pakistanis Seán McLoughlin 223

39 Diasporic dialogue among the British in Australia Sara Wills 230

40 Diasporic creativity: refugee intellectuals, exiled poets and corporate cosmopolitanism at the BBC World Service Marie Gillespie 236

41 Colonial space-making and hybridizing history, or 'Are the Indians of East Africa Africans or Indians"' Ato Quayson 243

42 Transnational musicians' networks across Africa and Europe Ulrike Hanna Meinhof Nadia Kiwan Marie-Pierre Gibert 249

43 Diasporic readers and the location of reception James Procter 256

44 Jews as rooted cosmopolitans: the end of diaspora" David Shneer Caryn Aviv 263

Conclusion: new directions Seán McLoughlin Kim Knott 269

About the contributors 274

Bibliography 278

Index 311

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