Interrogating diaspora

Martin Sökefeld (Munich University)
Erik Olsson (Stockholm University)
Dept. Arch Anth LT1
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Departing from recent critique of Diaspora as a concept that is too vague on the one hand and too essentialising on the other, the workshop intends to interrogate the theoretical and empirical usefulness of the Diaspora concept.

Long abstract:

The concept of Diaspora has become very popular within the social and cultural sciences in recent times. The proliferation of the concept has been marked by its separation from paradigmatic cases of old Diasporas. The new focus is on the questioning of essentialised boundaries of communities, cultures and nations. Diaspora has been acclaimed as a concept that facilitates the accommodation of hybridity, movement, permeability of borders and fluidity of identification. The initial euphoria of Diaspora has given way to reservations, however. It has been argued that, contrary to intentions, the concept has served to essentialise communities by attaching them to particular places of origin, and that the meaning of Diaspora has been stretched to an extent that it has lost its analytical power by largely equating Diaspora with migrant communities. <br/>The workshop intends to interrogate the empirical and theoretical usefulness of the Diaspora concept and the specific empirical questions it raises. Three main issues will be focused on. The first is the general conceptual question of how to conceptualise Diaspora in a way that shuns essentialism and avoids equating it solely with migrant communities, but at the same time secures its analytical and comparative value. The second issue concerns questions that arise once we abstain from essentialising Diaspora. We need to ask why and how Diaspora communities are formed and how people are mobilised for Diaspora. Why are people attracted to ideas of Diaspora? How are different Diasporas maintained and intergenerationally reproduced? How are Diasporas transformed in the process of reproduction? A third issue of interest is the transnationality that is claimed to be a central feature in diasporic contexts. What does such transnationality signify, and how does it manifest itself in diasporic practices? <br/>We invite theoretically focused and empirically well-grounded papers that address these particular questions.