"Diaspora": Definitional Differences

Entered by Leong Yew

Global Diasporas

The book recognizes the difficulty in coming to terms with, "diaspora", and as such it introduces conceptual categories to display the variety of meanings the word invokes. The author sees a common element in all forms of diaspora; these are people who live outside their "natal (or imagined natal) territories" (ix) and recognize that their traditional homelands are reflected deeply in the languages they speak, religions they adopt, and the cultures they produce. Beginning with the Jewish experience as the original diaspora, the book argues that while it is important to take this into consideration, it is also important to go beyond it. As such diaspora is broken down into various forms:

  • victim diasporas
  • labour diasporas
  • imperial diasporas
  • trade diasporas
  • "homeland" diasporas
  • cultural diasporas

Each of these categories underline a particular cause of migration usually associated with particular groups of people. So, for example, the Africans through their experience of slavery have been noted to be victims of extremely aggressive transmigrational policies, or in the case of Indians, they are seen to be part of labour diasporas because of their involvement with the colonial system of indentured labour. The author acknowledges that these categories are not mutually exclusive, and at any given moment one diasporic group could fall into diferent categories.

  • Cohen, Robin. Global Diasporas: An Introduction. London: UCL Press, 1997.


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Last Modified: 3 March 2002