New Routes for Diaspora Studies

New Routes for Diaspora Studies

New Routes for Diaspora Studies

New Routes for Diaspora Studies

Synopsis

Study of diasporas provides a useful frame for reimagining locations, movements, identities, and social formations. This volume explores diaspora as historical experience and as a category of analysis. Using case studies drawn from African and Asian diasporas and immigration in the U.S., the contributors interrogate ideas of displacement, return, and place of origin as they relate to diasporic identity. They also consider how practices of commensality become grounds for examining identity and difference and how narrative and aesthetic forms emerge through the context of diaspora.

Excerpt

Sukanya Banerjee

It has often been noted that diaspora is a phenomenon that can be traced to antiquity. Its current ubiquity as a focus of academic study, however, is informed in no small measure by contemporary conditions of global capitalism. Globalization and diaspora, though, bespeak different histories and modes of experience and should not be conflated. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the surge of academic interest in diaspora has paralleled, or even been effected by, the emergence of a world that appears to be shaped to an ever-greater degree by the dispersal of peoples and the rise of new forms of connectedness. the growth of interest in matters of a global scope has led many within academia today to rethink the spatial and temporal categories that once constrained much research and writing in the humanities and social sciences. Not only have the nation and its borders been subjected to the most enthusiastic interrogation, but similar categories such as the world region, area, and empire have also come under questioning in recent years. Amid this rethinking of spatial and temporal categories, the term diaspora has gained currency as a productive frame for reimagining locations, movements, identities, and social formations that have either been overlooked by earlier modes of analysis or, equally important, stand the chance of being flattened by the homogenizing effects of global capital.

As Khachig Tölölyan recounts in a recent assessment of the current state of diaspora studies, the concept of diaspora dates back at least to the period around 250 bce, when the Jews of Alexandria adopted the term to signify “their own scattering away from the homeland into galut, or collective exile.” By the early 1930s scholars had applied the term to the Jewish, Armenian . . .

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