Foreword

David Parkin

The juxtaposition of locality and belonging immediately raises the question of whether one can belong to a group which does not also have a territorial reference point. In fact, as this volume makes clear, it is a question which suggests that anthropologists can no longer assume that the people they study see themselves as attached to a particular, bounded locality. Diaspora, transnational community and dispersed network are typically some of the terms used to convey the image of movements of people who retain common socio-cultural consciousness in the face of constant displacement. This is not, however, really the problem of modern migratory globalism that it is often depicted as. Movement within one or two generations rather than fixed settlement has generally characterised human populations, and the earliest anthropologists built this fact into their analyses. What is really new is the awareness among many communities that there are innumerable other such populations linked globally by rapid transport, electronic communication systems and common access to the same consumer goods and styles, and that these often supplement rather than replace older ties forged through, say, trade and intermarriage.

Here we describe how groups, each identified by a sphere of overlapping activities, set up collective memories of themselves against a view of what is happening elsewhere in the world. These different local notions of global consciousness quickly change as new information comes in and so challenge the power and selectivity of collective memories. In her introduction, Nadia Lovell pithily notes that belonging is a way of remembering and of constructing a collective memory of place, but that, like genealogies, such constructions are always contestable.

‘Belonging’ under such conditions becomes problematic. Is it to ‘imagined communities’ whose members agree that they have a common origin, even if they cannot agree where it is? Or does one

-ix-

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