Kim Knott and Seán McLoughlin, DIASPORAS

Subtitle: Concepts, Intersections, Identities. London and New York, Zed Books, 2010

This useful volume, subdivided into short chapters written by several different contributors, defines the intersecting areas of migration, diaspora, transnationalism cosmopolitanism and other concepts, and provides a number of field examples. Indicated below are only some ideas among the numerous stimuli included in the book.

Martin Baumann ascribes the meaning of diaspora, understood chiefly as exile, to Jewish history: “the term was coined to form an integral part of a pattern constituted by the fourfold course of sin and disobedience, scattering and diaspora, repentance, and finally return and gathering” (p. 21).

Baumann also observes that, whereas today exile is rather associated to a forced condition and homelessness, the term diaspora has become more general since the 1960s when it “was employed to denote a national, cultural, or religious group living in a foreign land”, and it has broadened its semantic area even further since the 1990s (p. 22).

When we discuss exile, we normally understand a temporary situation, whereas in modern migrations a variety of attitudes to permanence and integration in the host culture, as well as yearning for the native culture, have to be considered.

A diasporic configuration includes “nostalgia for remigration” which is a recurrent affect in modern times among migrants. As Femte Stock details, “what is remembered is a prior home. This recollection, however, evolves in constant dialogue with new memories of other places and changing circumstances” (p. 19).

The concept of home is indeed complex and variable. As Shelley Mallett puts it, “home is variously described as conflated with or related to house, family, haven, self, gender, and journeying” (p. 27).

This is connected to transnationalism. As Peggy Levitt observes: “more and more, we live in a world in which people embrace multiple identities and turn to a variety of institutions around the globe to claim them” (p. 39).

On an interconnected level, Robin Cohen adopts the term “creolization”: “the idea of creolization […] centres on the cross-fertilization between different cultures as they interact” (p. 71).

Among the numerous case studies listed in this volume, two are particularly interesting to the present writer. Jeffrey Lesser examines the case of belonging and alienation of Japanese people who migrated to Brasil a century ago, and notices that even recent generations are still not fully integrated there, nor are they totally at ease if they remigrate to Japan. Dibyesh Anand writes about the case of Tibetans living in the Indian diaspora, which was successful to create a strong sense of identity.

[Roberto Bertoni]