The dispersion of communities of people physically displaced from their perceived ‘homeland’ to other parts of the globe has been a defining feature of the human experience. Commonly
The dispersion of communities of people physically displaced from their perceived ‘homeland’ to other parts of the globe has been a defining feature of the human experience. Commonly referred to as diasporas, these groups have travelled to other lands for reasons including to escape persecution, to seek a better life and to exploit economic opportunities. As a critical framework, diaspora directs our attention to the impact of relocation/dislocation on the lives and identities of affected individuals, the homelands they leave and the new places where they make their homes. Diaspora has often been defined in terms of what it is not – not from “here,” not “at home,” not “rooted.” This approach is consistent with the way modern—that is, privileged—subjectivity is primed to understand identity in terms of how it differs from an ‘other’. For this reason, the language of difference is inextricably linked to the concept of identity. Whether they are designated as exiles, expatriates, alien residents, transnationals, dual/multiple-citizens, refugees, or other migrants, diasporans frequently are regarded—by others as well as by themselves—as ‘other’. While diaspora offers convenient terminology for talking about groups living away from an ancestral homeland, it has acquired particular meanings and connotations about the nature of dispersion, the orientation of displaced persons to the homeland and the impact of boundaries on identity. However, influential voices in the field have called for diaspora to be through of as a critical practice that engages in an ongoing discussion with diasporic experience without falling into the temptations to categorize or define too rigidly.
As we approach the end of the first 20 years of the 21st century, we are well positioned to consider how members of displaced groups relate to identity markers such as race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, and other socio-cultural categories, having regard to the impact of globalisation, connectivity and mobility.
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