Saturday, February 07, 2009


The term Diaspora (in Greek, διασπορά – "a scattering [of seeds]") refers to the movement of any population sharing common ethnic identity who were either forced to leave or voluntarily left their settled territory, and became residents in areas often far removed from the former. It is converse to the nomadic culture. Diaspora cultural development often assumes a different course from that of the population in the original place of settlement. It tends to vary in culture, traditions and other factors between remotely separated communities. The last vestige of cultural affiliation in a Diaspora is often found in community resistance to language change and in maintenance of religious practice.

The first mention of a diaspora created as a result of exile is found in Deuteronomy 28:25 "thou shalt be a dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth". Its use began to develop from this original sense when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek; the word "Diaspora" then was used to refer to the population of Jews exiled from Israel in 607 BC by the Babylonians, and from Judea in 70 CE by the Roman Empire. It subsequently came to be used to refer interchangeably, but exclusively, to the historical movements of the dispersed ethnic population of Israel, the cultural development of that population, or the population itself.

The wider application of Diaspora evolved from the Assyrian two-way mass deportation policy of conquered populations to deny future territorial claims on their part. In Ancient Greece the term Diaspora meant " the scattered" and was used to refer to citizens of a dominant city-state who emigrated to a conquered land with the purpose of colonisation, to assimilate the territory into the empire.

First modern attestation of diasporas is in 1876 from the Greek "Diaspora", derived from diaspeirein "to scatter about, disperse," from dia- "about, across" + speirein "to scatter". As an academic field, Diaspora studies has been established relating to the wider modern meaning of the usage 'Diaspora'.

Sometimes refugees of other origins or ethnicities may be called a Diaspora, but the two terms are far from synonymous.

The term became more widely assimilated into English by the mid 1950s, with long-term expatriates in significant numbers from other particular countries or regions also being referred to as a diaspora. An academic field, diaspora studies, has become established relating to this contemporary more general sense of the word.

In all cases, the term Diaspora carries a sense of displacement; that is, the population so described finds itself for whatever reason separated from its national territory; and usually it has a hope, or at least a desire, to return to their homeland at some point, if the "homeland" still exists in any meaningful sense. Some writers have noted that Diaspora may result in a loss of nostalgia for a single home as people "re-root" in a series of meaningful displacements. In this sense, individuals may have multiple homes throughout their Diaspora, with different reasons for maintaining some form of attachment to each.

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