Global Diasporas: An Introduction Summary

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In the introduction of his book Global Diasporas: An Introduction, Robin Cohen identifies four different phases in the development of diaspora studies: (1) the prototypical diaspora, (2) the expanded concept of diaspora, (3) social constructionist critiques of diaspora and (4) the consolidation phase. To stay in line with a chronological approach, I start of course with Cohen’s first phase. The word diaspora itself derives from the Greek word diaspeirein – meaning ‘to scatter’ or ‘to sow’ – and was first used in the Septuagint to describe the dislocation and resettling of the Jews after the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BC. Cohen argues that up to the 1960s, the word diaspora was first and foremost used in reference to the Jewish…show more content…
During the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, scholars started to notice that there were many different groups ‘on the move’ and that the concept of diaspora was increasingly used as “metaphoric designations for several categories of people – expatriates, expellees, political refugees, alien residents, immigrants, and ethnic and racial minorities tout court”. The introduction of a new academic journal in 1991 called Diaspora: a Journal of Transnational Studies and a groundbreaking article by William Safran – published in the first issue of the new journal – marked the rise and proliferation of contemporary diaspora studies. Safran called for the need for an ‘ideal type’ definition of diaspora, instead of one that includes all forms of (diasporic) movement. In his definition, members of a diaspora share several of the following…show more content…
They should be studied within a world that consists of complicated entanglements, where boundaries and borders are fluid rather than rigid. Moreover, they argued that the diasporic consciousness is not only constituted by negative, but also by positive experiences. Scholars like James Clifford, Stuart Hall and Homi Bhabha argued for an understanding of identities as processes rather than fixed entities. In the light of this perspective, the understanding of diaspora shifted from being seen as something fixed, to being understood as a process itself: “a number of diasporas commonly mutate in different phases of their migratory history”. Cohen argues that social constructionist criticism also led to the disentanglement of concepts of home, homeland and diaspora. Avtar Brah argues that “the concept of diaspora offers a critique of discourses of fixed origins, while taking into account a homing desire. The homing desire, however, is not the same as the desire for a ‘homeland’”. This is because not all diasporas wish to (physically) return to their original
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