A human population scattered beyond a home territory, though still interconnected. The term commonly refers to ethno-national or religious groups living outside a homeland, e.g. the Irish or Sikh diaspora, but its usage has become greatly extended in association with globalization and postmodernism. A constant theme is that diaspora relates to questions of territory and identity, movement and fixity, and challenges the notion that people’s identity has a singular relation to place.
It originally referred to two distinct situations: the settlement of the Mediterranean by Greek cities founding ‘daughter’ colonies; and the experience of forced removal and exile of Jews to Babylon in 586 bc. But from being regarded as exceptions to the norm of territorially bounded identities such as nation-states, diasporas have increasingly been treated as indicative of a more generalized sense of geographically dispersed identity. From association with pain and loss diaspora now often implies creativity and freedom. Many critics argue that the term has become so inflated that it has lost significant meaning.
Stéphane Dufoix outlines several distinct meanings. The most inclusive refers to members of a group or organization scattered about the world, not necessarily with any homeland. This could include professionals, footballers, or students. A more categorical usage is found in sociology and political studies, where various authors have tried to identify types of diaspora according to defined criteria, often for comparative purposes. Robin Cohen identifies victim (e.g. Armenian), labour, and imperial (e.g. Indian and British), trade (e.g. overseas Chinese), and cultural (e.g. Caribbean) variants. These are usually distributed across national borders though linked by meaningful social, cultural, and political relations. Some authors use diaspora in the sense of ethnic minority enclaves within a country, e.g. Koreatowns in the USA. By contrast, anthropologists and cultural theorists are often less concerned with the demographic fact, i.e. whether a group is a diaspora, and more with the condition or consciousness of being in diaspora. They invoke non-essentialist ideas of identity such as hybridity and heterogeneity to explore deterritorialized meanings of belonging. James Clifford argues that we must pay attention to both ‘roots and routes’ in identity, and Paul Gilroy writes of the Black Atlantic (1994) through metaphors of travel across a dispersed socio-cultural terrain. These authors often refer to cultural expressions such as music (jazz and hip-hop in Gilroy’s case), art, fashion, and fiction (e.g. Salman Rushdie’s novels). They are less concerned with physical movement and material connections than with imagination. For Avtar Brah, diaspora spaces are paradoxical sites where inclusion and exclusion, belonging and otherness are negotiated. They need not imply crossing state boundaries but might refer to parts of a city. ...
To find books about diasporas, you can use the keyword search within subject headings diaspora. Diaspora is not used as a subject heading by itself. It is usually combined with another word or term, usually geographic to denote the people within a particular diaspora. See the examples below.
Articles and other writings about diasporas can be found in many publications. Our collection includes journals which look at diaspora. Below are a couple of relevant journal titles. You can also use the search box at the top of the page to find articles and other resources.