Concepts, Theories, and Challenges of Diaspora: A panoptic Approach

W. Safran (University of Colorado, Boulder)

William Safran, University of Colorado at Boulder

Prepared for presentation at the workshop on “Dispersione, “globalizzazione “ e costruzione dell’alterità: diaspore et migrazioni nel bacino del Mediterraneo et oltre (XIX-XX secc.), sponsored by University of Pisa, Department of History. Marsala, Italy, September 18, 2007.


“Diaspora” has become an increasingly trendy concept throughout the academic world. This is not surprising, given the incessant movement of peoples from one country, region, or continent to another for a variety of reasons: economic, political, social, and cultural. This phenomenon has called into question the relevance of the ideal-type of the “nation-state,” or, more exactly, of the congruence of nation and state, and has created a situation where the societies of most countries are becoming multiethnic, multicultural, multiracial, and pluralistic. Minority populations were once referred to as refugees, immigrants, expatriates, asylum seekers, or guest workers; these categorizations seemed to be sufficient, for how else could one explain the fact that most specialists on nationalism, ethnicity, and even migration did not deal with diaspora as a distinct category or mention it at all, at least until very recently.[1] The reason for this omission was perhaps the fact that diasporas were not considered “communal contenders” politically mobilizing for separatism or for special institutional recognition within their host countries. In any case, today many, if not most, of these categories tend to be conflated and put under the single rubric of “diasporas.”

This tendency is found especially among those for whom subjective definitions are more important than those based on objective criteria. According to Vijay Mishra, there is a “the diaspora imaginary,” which is “the state of identification in which we appear likeable to ourselves, with the image representing ‘what we would like to be.’” In his view, diaspora is a product of fantasy, “a joy, a pleasure around which antimiscegenation narratives of homeland are constructed.”[2] To a typical Eastern European Jew, suggesting that there are people who would like to be members of a diaspora, with all the insecurities, ambiguities, and neuroses associated with that condition, does not make much sense.

It seems clear that diaspora, once an object of suspicion, has become one of fascination.[3] Whereas once diaspora was a historically and politically loaded concept, today it is a not only a neutral term but a catch-all one. In consequence, it is possible to put many of the above-mentioned categories under the single rubric of diaspora. This development reflects a conceptual proliferation that does not make the work of specialists easier.

Attempts at Definition

This observation is not intended to deny the growing objective reality of the diaspora phenomenon. Since the end of World War II there have been so many population shifts that millions of people came to live in countries other than where they were born. Although the settlement of most of these in hostlands is permanent, they cannot simply be regarded as immigrants; nor can they be ignored. Their presence is often so massive and their refusal to assimilate completely into their hostland society so palpable that their presence challenges traditional notions of national identity and national sovereignty. If one wishes to create some order in the discussion of diaspora, one must begin by raising questions about what sort of ethnic, national, or religious communities it should legitimately refer to that distinguishes them from mere immigrants. There is considerable agreement about the diasporic character of the displaced Jews, Armenians, Kurds, Indians, most Chinese “expatriate” communities, Cubans, Palestinian Arabs, and Albanian Kosovars. When we classify them as diasporas, we do so on the grounds that they share most, if not all, of the following characteristics:

1. They, or their ancestors, have been dispersed from a specific original “center” to one or more peripheral, or foreign, regions.

2. They retain a collective memory, vision, or myth about their original homeland—its physical location, history, and achievements and, often enough, sufferings.

3. They believe that they are not, and perhaps cannot be, fully accepted by their host society and therefore feel partly alienated and insulated from it.

4. They regard their ancestral homeland as their true, ideal home and as the place to which they or their descendants would (or should) eventually return—when conditions are appropriate.

5. They believe that they should, collectively, be committed to the maintenance or restoration of their original homeland and to its safety and prosperity.[4]

6. They continue to relate, personally or vicariously, to that homeland in one way or another, and their ethnocommunal consciousness and solidarity are importantly defined in terms of the existence of such a relationship. The absence of such a relationship makes it difficult to speak of transnationalism.

7. They share a common notion of “peoplehood” not only with the homeland but with ethnic kin in other countries.

8. They are willing to survive as a minority by maintaining and transmitting a cultural and/or religious heritage derived from their ancestral home.

9. In structuring their communities and adapting to their hostlands, diasporas become themselves independent centers of cultural creation; yet their creations continue to contain certain ethnosymbols, customs, and narratives of the homeland.

10. Their cultural, religious, economic, and/or political relationships with the homeland are reflected in a significant way in their communal institutions.[5]

            The above represents an approximation of an ideal-type (in the Weberian sense). What about expatriate communities that do not share at least some of these characteristics? The label of diaspora should not necessarily be limited to ethnic communities whose members have fled, or have been forcibly extruded, from their home countries and whose expatriation is marked by collective traumas (such as famine, political persecution, or ethnic cleansing); it may also be extended to those communities that had expatriated themselves of their own free will, for reasons of economic improvement, political ambition, or adventure. If we extend the label of diaspora to this latter group, it would embrace American descendants of German, Scottish, English, and Swedish immigrants who, unlike Jews, Armenians, or Chinese, had never been subjected to acute danger, oppression, or legal disabilities, and who have lost all connection with, or interest in, their forebears’ native lands.[ Some scholars, such as Gérard Chaliand, believe that the concept should be more narrowly construed, lest it lose all analytic utility; others, such as Robin Cohen, would include them all under the concept of diaspora.]

            Such an expansive and permissive use of the term is based on a purely physical denotation of dispersal or change of locality. Edward Said may be right when he asserts that “in a secular and contingent world, homes are always provisional. Borders and barriers which enclose us within the safety of familiar territory can also become prisons, and are often defended beyond reason or necessity.”[6] Does this mean that any American family that moves, say, from a familiar village in the South to an unfamiliar New England town because of job opportunities would find itself in a Yankee diaspora?[7] Given the fact that the ancestors of most people have at one time moved from one country, province, city, or neighborhood to another—the term would then cover the larger part of humanity. The need for conceptual clarity imposes an obligation to make distinctions. To that end, we must ask ourselves a number of questions.

            1. Are all expatriate communities diasporas, or should a distinction be made between forcibly exiled peoples and voluntary colonizers? For example, are the Scots and the English who settled in Northern Ireland a diaspora, or do they consider themselves inhabitants of one of several provinces of the United Kingdom?

            2. How useful is the distinction, introduced by Milton Esman,[8] between “homeland societies” and “immigrant diasporas” (with no intermediate categories)? Are there “non-immigrant diasporas,” or, more precisely, are there diasporas that are not based on immigrant stock? And are all immigrants necessarily diasporas? Does the designation apply to the Germans who settled in Bergen (Bryggen) as agents of the Hanseatic League? They spoke German and followed German social, religious, and cultural patterns, but it is not clear to what extent they were “oriented” to their native land or thought of returning to it, especially since they enjoyed extraterritorial privileges. Indeed, in the “prenational” situation that prevailed during the 15th and 16th centuries, the Hanseatic League had no precise geographical homeland.

Does the term legitimately apply to the descendants of Irish or English settlers in North America? of the Scandinavians in Minnesota? of the German immigrants to Pennsylvania? of the French settlers in Canada, who did not inherit the Jacobin tradition of the nation state? of the English settlers in Australia, including those whose nostalgia for England (expressed in loyalty to the monarchy) has been rapidly disappearing?

            3. There is no doubt that diaspora has to do with a condition or an identity, but is that enough? A mere proclamation of identity—as for example, that of an American saying “I’m Irish,” “I’m Jewish,” or “I’m Italian”—has little or no meaning unless it reflects a way of thinking, a feeling of being “alien,” and, occasionally, patterns of behavior that tend to fall outside the norms of society at large. Is the staging of a public event—e.g., a Saint Patrick’s or Columbus Day parade—a sufficient expression of a cultural symbol to tie an ethnic community to the home country? Is the retention of certain culinary preferences a meaningful marker of ethnocultural specificity, especially when such preferences are becoming “globalized”? Note that WASPs and Jews also participate in the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York, and that Italian, French, and Chinese food is eaten by non-Italians, non-French, and non-Chinese as well. As the advertising billboards in New York used to proclaim, under the portrait of a Native American: “You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Levy’s Rye Bread.”

            4. Is there a time constraint for the retention of diaspora consciousness? The historic memory or myth on which a home country focus is based may fade to such an extent that the diasporic consciousness may weaken and virtually disappear. For example, it is doubtful whether the descendants of Polish immigrants to Chicago still have a clear picture, or any picture at all, of the glories of the Jagellonian monarchy, the traumas of failed rebellions against Czarist oppression during the 19th century, or any other “usable past.”[9] It is doubtful, moreover, whether Americans of Polish descent define their Roman Catholicism in Polish “national” terms, e.g., in terms of an image of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa (unlike most Poles in their homeland, who define their Polish identity in terms of Catholicism). It is equally doubtful whether the Hmong of Southeast Asia, who have been widely dispersed in the United States, can in the long run maintain a diasporic collective identity if their descendants forget their parents’ language; have neither the desire nor a realistic possibility of return to their homeland; integrate successfully into American economic and social life; have only a weak, if any, institutional backup for their ethnic identity; and have neither a homeland nor a hostland elite that provides a cultural source or political support for a continuing diasporic consciousness.

Homeland Influences, Hostland Pressures, and Crucial Events

To what extent is the diaspora character of an expatriate ethnic minority influenced by the involvement of the home country? There is no doubt that the sense of difference of a minority in relation to the majority of the host society is buttressed by the educational, cultural, or religious services provided by the home country. This applies, for example, to the emissaries (shlihim) sent by Israel to selected cities in the United States, who try to encourage an interest in their country among young Jews; and it applies equally to the Koranic teachers sent by Algeria to France. In neither case do these efforts motivate appreciable numbers to return “home”; however, it is felt by some that the Koranic teachings may serve to instill in children Islamic fundamentalist values that are not in consonance with the French republican norms of pluralism, gender equality, laïcité, and the primacy of civil law. In addition, the homeland may serve as a source of culture and pride or articulator of some of the concerns of diasporas. This is reflected in Israel’s fight against global anti-Semitism; in Turkey’s role as (putative) protector of its workers in diaspora; in Russia’s role as protector of the safety of its stranded brethren in the Baltic countries. One of the most recent instances of homeland intervention in diasporas is the decision of the Hungarian government to grant special benefits to its diasporic brethren, the exterritorial Magyars living in Romania, a policy that could be interpreted either as an example of ethnic solidarity, or as a form of political pressure falling short of irredentism.

There are other examples of homeland pressure on external ethnonational kinfolk. The Nazi regime attempted (with very limited success) to encourage Americans of German descent to lobby the U.S. government for a pro-Hitler policy; and in the mid-1960s, General Charles de Gaulle attempted to foment diasporic sentiments among the Francophones in Quebec, in order to promote a policy of hostility toward the “Anglo-Saxons,” in particular, the United States.

Homeland-diaspora traffic is not one-sided; there may be a reverse cultural relationship in the form of a diasporic counterinfluences on the home country. One of the primary expressions of such co-responsibility has been the diaspora’s concern with the fate of the homeland. At the end of World War I, the Czech and Polish diasporas acted as midwives for the (re) establishment of the independence of their homelands. After World War II, the Jewish diaspora in the United States was a powerful force for the creation of the State of Israel, and it continues to act in behalf of its security and economic development. During the Cold War, various east-central European diasporas in the West pressured their hostland governments to take a tough stance in favor of their “enslaved” homelands and against any accommodation with the Soviet Union. Members of the Croatian diaspora in Germany lobbied with their hostland government to facilitate Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia; and members of the Serbian diaspora protested against NATO bombing of Yugoslav targets. The Armenian diaspora succeeded in getting its hostlands in the West (most recently in France), to acknowledge the Ottoman genocide. Exiled Iranians in the United States have been denouncing Islamic fundamentalism and promoting women’s rights in their homeland,[10] and the “Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the United States” has been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland. Tamils in India and the diaspora have being helping their ethnic brethren in Sri Lanka; and the Tamil diaspora in Canada has been sending food to Tamil Tigers.[11] Expatriate Afghanis in the United States have shown pride at the sight of the flag at the embassy of the new post-Taliban Afghan government; have been helping Afghanistan to build a modern democratic state (some by returning to their native land); and have demonstrated their identification with their homeland by keeping their dual citizenship.[12] The Armenian Assembly of America has been lobbying with the U.S. Congress for earmarked assistance; providing philanthropic contributions; fighting group defamation, and inaugurating a tree-planting project. Members of the Kosovo diaspora in Germany and Switzerland have been impressed with the “moral obligation” to give a percentage of their income to help Kosovar Albanians.[13]

Not all such interventions have been successful, and some have been disapproved of by hostland governments, especially if they do not accord with the national interests of the hostland. For example, various attempts by the Kurdish diaspora to protect Kurdish minorities in Turkey and Iraq have met with limited success, as have their protests against the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan; much the same has been true of attempts by the Greek diaspora to lobby in favor of Greek interests in Cyprus; and of Irish-American lobbying in favor of the Irish Republican Army. The impact of diasporas on their homelands is primarily economic—as it must be in most cases, given the fact that the origin of most diasporas is found in the poverty that impelled them to leave, and that “established” diasporas are often better off than are their fellow ethnics in the homeland.

The concerns of homelands often diverge from those of their diasporas. As Shain and Wittes have pointed out, homeland Armenians are more concerned with the loss of lands to Turkey and Azerbaijan, while for the Armenian diaspora the memory of genocide counts more heavily.[14] Jews in the diaspora are concerned primarily with sociopolitical equality and the threat of anti-Semitism, while Israelis are worried more about physical security and the threats of their neighbors to their independence. These kinds of disparities sometimes make diaspora lobbying in behalf of the homeland counterproductive.

Diasporas experience much greater difficulty in attempts to exert non-material influence on their homelands. Many third world countries, in particular autocratic ones, are likely to resent and resist efforts by their diasporas in modern Western democracies to export unwelcome ideas, such as democracy, gender equality, non-ascriptive elite recruitment, and the supremacy of civil over religious law. For instance, the Israeli rabbinate complains that varieties of the non-Orthodox Judaism of the (American) Jewish diaspora are being imported by Israel to the detriment of Jewish unity; and members of the Islamic establishment in North African countries complain that western notions of religion are corrupting the thinking of Muslims in those countries.

At the same time, diasporas may function as cultural “reserve” areas; for it is often the diaspora community that preserves “national” values—unpolluted by the ideological overlays of an autocratic homeland regime—better than the homeland. This, however, is the case only if the diaspora is free to express these values, or if the hostland government encourages it to do so. For example, the exile literature produced by diaspora intellectuals and the exile religion maintained by diaspora clerics have served to preserve and perpetuate aspects of traditional cultures that could not be pursued effectively in the homeland itself—such as non-Nazi German and non-Communist Russian literature, Tibetan religion, and Chinese Confucianism—for eventual “re-exportation” into the homeland by returnees. Some of these imports are welcomed by the homeland; others are not.

            The “reexport” of diaspora patterns has been particularly remarkable with respect to Israel; this has applied in particular to forms of Jewish religion, lifestyle, cuisine, and aspects of diaspora political culture.[15] Among the reexports are numerous linguistic “back formations” via the Yiddish language.

In many cases it is the behavior of the hostland government and society that affects the diaspora identity of a minority community. Hostland policies may be designed to create conditions that lead to the “de-diasporization” of a minority; conversely, the moribund diaspora consciousness of an ethnic minority community may be resuscitated as a result of pressure from the government of the host country. There is a tendency (in particular among politicians and academicians) to demonize certain diasporas as “fifth columns” that are employed by home governments to promote the political agenda of the latter, and it tends to have a chilling effect on the political activities of the diaspora. This charge is frequently leveled against Israel, which is said to use the “Jewish lobby” to promote a favorable American policy toward the Jewish state.[16]

The converse sort of pressure, however—that of a host government upon a diaspora within its borders—seems to be much more common. The following examples may serve to illustrate the point:

·        The U.S. government (especially under Republican rule), in order to fight the Soviet Union during the Cold War, encouraged the belief of Polish-Americans that their home country had been victimized by the Yalta agreements and it recruited them for its anti-Communist propaganda efforts; and (during the Italian elections in 1948) it pressured Italian-Americans to write to their kin in the homeland to persuade them to vote against the Communists.

·        After the Fidel Castro revolution, the U.S. government strove to keep alive the diaspora sentiments of Cuban exiles who had settled in Florida.

·        The U.S. government (under certain presidents) has manipulated the diaspora Jewish community (under the threat of invoking the specter of an anti-Semitic backlash) to exert pressure on Israel to make difficult compromises in its conflict with the Arabs.[17] On several occasions, the U. S. government has encouraged that diaspora to influence Israeli elections in order to produce a government more amenable to American foreign policy goals.

·        After the establishment of Israel, most Arab countries where Palestinian Arab refugees had settled refused to integrate these refugees, specifically in order to keep alive, if not promote, the diaspora consciousness of the refugees.

·        In 1990-1991, shortly after the reunification of the two Germanies, the German government stirred up the ethnonational sentiments of Croatian expatriates who had settled in the Federal Republic after World War II, in order to create a system of political pressure that helped to promote the breakup of Yugoslavia.

·        [[[SHIFT?] The systematic refusal of Germany—at least until the early 1990s—(under the principle of jus sanguinis) to naturalize millions of Turks and Kurds (including their offspring born in Germany) and its retention of the “myth of return” (Heimkehrillusion), fostered a collective diaspora identity among these minorities. It is unclear whether, and how quickly, the legalization of the status of the Turkish “guest workers” and their naturalization (which seems to be progressing) would affect their self-identification as members of a diaspora.]]]

A waning diaspora consciousness may be revived after a special event, such as a revolutionary struggle or a tragic experience, that brings back the importance of the kinship connection, e.g.,

·        the relocation and internment of Japanese-Americans, most of whom had never been to Japan, who never knew the Japanese language, and who had retained no Japanese cultural inheritances;

·        the Holocaust, which stirred the feeling of separateness, if not the feeling of being periodically abandoned, even among assimilated North American and Western European Jews. That feeling got a boost just before the Six Day war of 1967, when the majority of Jews feared for the survival of Israel. (When Israel emerged victorious, many American Jews who had been estranged from the Jewish community suddenly identified as Jewish and proclaimed, “We are winning!”);

·        the earthquake in the Armenian Soviet Republic, which generated a massive campaign of support among expatriate Armenians;

·        a hardening of the position of Ulster Unionists and increasing Protestant violence against Northern Irish Catholics, which stirred long-suppressed memories on the part of many Americans of Irish stock and Catholic faith and caused some of them to furnish weapons to the Irish Republican Army;[18]

·        more recently, the capture and prosecution by the Turkish government of Abdullah Ocalan, a leader of the Kurdish separatists, which sparked a massive outpouring of support of Kurdish expatriates in various countries.


Conditions of Expatriation and of Diaspora

The paradigmatic Jewish and Armenian diasporas began with forcible expulsion. The origin of several other diasporas has been more complex. Thus, the Palestinian diaspora was produced in part by expulsion, and in part by flight in response to conditions created in the newly established State of Israel or to policies promoted by its government. The Irish diaspora was the consequence of intolerable economic conditions in the homeland. Admittedly, expatriation under duress is not a sine qua non of a diasporic collective identity. It is legitimate to refer to “imperial diasporas,” as does Robin Cohen, but one must be careful to differentiate between the beneficiaries of imperialism and unskilled workers forcibly settled in a colony for the purpose of exploiting them for reasons of divide et impera. [19] What about the officials of multinational corporations, American soldiers, embassy personnel and their families, whose numbers are large enough to constitute organized communities? These communities do manifest what have been referred to as the three major elements of diaspora: “mobility, connectivity, and communication in a globalized world.”[20] But these groups live in an “extraterritorial” institutional setting that is only physically located abroad; their communities do not become independent centers of cultural creation; and their expatriation is temporary.

The Indian settlers in South Africa, who were a marginal presence in the social and political sense, had good reason to consider themselves in diaspora, because they had been brought in as indentured laborers. But such a designation hardly applies to the English, Dutch, or Scottish settlers who dominated South African politics and society. A fortiori, it applies even less to the hundreds of British civil servants in India who were part of the British ruling class, on temporary assignment as agents of the colonial empire, most of whom fully intended to return home. As Gérard Chaliand has written, “The claims concerning the status of “minority” would not have any sense if one speaks of dominant minorities.”[21]

            For Jews, diaspora has had a specific meaning historically—that of exile under unfavorable conditions—more specifically, conditions of minority status and of powerlessness in relation to a dominant majority.[22] That diaspora also connoted a continuing sense of insecurity, for Jews were the proverbial Other in terms of religion, dress, customs, cuisine, and language, so that they constituted convenient scapegoats and as such were subjected to forcible conversion, expulsion, and pogroms.

            If diaspora connotes a sense of continuing alienation, subordination, relative deprivation, or imperfect integration, is it legitimate to label as diasporas ethnic categoric groups who have come to make up the majority of the population of a host country, or who dominate its political and social life? Are the Chinese in Singapore a “gilded diaspora,” since they constitute the majority of the state’s population, since their language is the dominant one and since they control the country’s politics? Are the Chinese in Malaysia still in a diaspora mode, after consenting to the use of the Malay language, rather than the Chinese language, as the language of the country in exchange for a privileged access to naturalization of Chinese immigrants? Are the Indians in Fiji a diaspora, when they dominate the economic life of that island republic? Are the WASPs in the United States a diaspora, since they define and dominate the political, economic, and cultural life of the whole country? Is the United Kingdom, whence most of the early settlers came to the North American colonies, still their “home country” in the same sense that the Armenian Republic is the home country of Armenian communities scattered throughout the Middle East, Western Europe, and the United States?

            Conversely, is it not more legitimate to consider the Native Americans, who have been displaced and quarantined within their own country, an “internal” diaspora? Are the Neturei Karta, a community of ultra-Orthodox and anti-Zionist Jews who live in Jerusalem, not an internal diaspora despite the fact that they have “returned” from their dispersion to live in their historic homeland by choice but under conditions of self-imposed semi-isolation from it?

            To what extent is the diaspora consciousness of an ethnonational or religious community eclipsed after it moves from a less desirable political, social, and cultural environment—one that tends to sharpen the sense of alienation—to a more desirable one? Specifically, do the Jews whose ancestors settled in the United States in the 19th century have the same sense of being in a diaspora as those who remained in Eastern Europe? Are Jews who have left the former Soviet Union and settled in the United States a diaspora in relation to Israel, or in relation to Russia, Georgia, or Tadjikistan? To many Israelis (whether they intend to “expatriate” from Israel or to stay there), the diaspora—construed as galut (exile)—is Poland, Lithuania, or Romania, but not the United States, which is labeled as golah, a theologically neutral term denoting mere physical dispersion. In short, although Jews outside Israel are, collectively, categoric members of the diaspora, not all Jews regard themselves as such. In Germany, an increasing number of Jews attempted to westernize (i.e., de-ethnicize or “Protestantize”) Judaism by eliminating all references to Jerusalem and referred to themselves as deutsche Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens. Many German Jews convinced themselves that there was a “spiritual symbiosis,” and even an “elective affinity,” between Germans and Jews, until the Nazis reminded Jews that they remained a people apart. In France (at least until the Holocaust, and later, the arrival of Jewish “repatriates” from North Africa) Jews had come to think of themselves as French men and women of “Jewish origin” whose adherence to the republic’s civil religion was (unlike that of Bretons or Occitans) unmediated by membership in a historic subnational community (and, according to Jean-Paul Sartre, people whose Jewish identity had no intrinsic meaning unless they were reminded of it by anti-Semites); and in the United States, in which “Protestant, Catholic, Jew” are, theoretically, part of the trinity of the “American religion,”[23] many Jews do not believe themselves to be in exile.

            One of the features of diaspora is the existence of a pan-ethnic solidarity, marked by links between co-ethnics across various hostlands.[24] Such links have been particularly strong in the case of Jews, informed by the notion that “all Jews are responsible for one another.” But even here such links are uneven; they are heavily influenced by the social patterns and cultural standards of hostland countries. Between the 1880s and 1920s Jews from the eastern European shtetl moving to Germany were not warmly welcomed by their coreligionists, who regarded these “Ostjuden” as being too outlandish and as tending to hurt the status of “indigenous” Jews who were in process of shedding their diasporic self-image (insofar as it connotes “otherness”). The Jewish pieds noirs who “returned” to France in the 1960s, although coming from a more traditionalist environment, had to be welcomed by their Ashkenazic coreligionists because they were French citizens; but they were welcomed also because, in the wake of the Holocaust, Jews (following the example of “indigenous” minorities) were becoming selectively reethnified. Jews moving to the United States from eastern Europe between the middle of the 19th and early 20th century did not experience the same cognitive dissonance about the implications of diaspora, given the pluralistic texture of American society.]

The Hostland-Homeland Ambiguity

There is wide agreement that diaspora status implies an interactive relationship between the hostland and the homeland. That assumes that the hostland does not interfere in the expression of the homeland-oriented sentiments of a minority community, and that the homeland is receptive to the input of its diaspora. This does not seem the case with respect to the expatriate Tibetans, whose influence on their homeland is severely restricted. Yet these Tibetans are certainly a diaspora. Moreover, it is not always clear which is the homeland and which the hostland, and precisely where the homeland is located. This question applies especially to several diaspora communities that have been expatriated from the homeland to one hostland en route, subsequently, to another hostland: to the extent that there is a nostalgic memory of a “homeland,” is it the original homeland or the preceding hostland? Are the Jamaicans and other West Indian Blacks who settled in the United States or in London a West Indian diaspora or an African one? Where is their “true” homeland: is it the more distant or the recent and proximate one? Where is the homeland of the Jews from the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel and subsequently settled in the United States? What about the Jewish pieds noirs who “repatriated” to France? Israel is their historic homeland; France is their political homeland; but Algeria is the country in which they grew up and which formed their culture and their character. Jamaican immigrants to the United States harbor nostalgic feelings about life in the West Indies; Jewish immigrants to Western Europe or North America romanticize the shtetl,”[25] and disappointed Jewish immigrants to Israel remember with some fondness the countryside, the food, and the culture of the former Soviet Union.

            If by diasporism is meant a degree of discomfort occasioned by physiognomic difference between an ethnic minority and the hostland majority, Irish immigrants to the United States were less “diasporic” than Jews, Italians, Poles, and African-Americans. Yet they were more alienated in their new country than the Jews. For a while,

[the Irish] remained . . . American nativism’s leading Catholic, ethnic opponents; The Irish had been the first ethnic group to arrive in the United States; they controlled the Catholic church, still the principal irritant to nativist sensibilities; they dominated urban politics in  the North, challenging Anglo-American Protestant ascendancy . . . and there was, of course, the ancient rivalry planted in the old country. While the Irish might resemble the Anglos, they were less anxious to associate with them than were many other ethnics. Jews and many non-Irish Catholics often were obsequious in their relations with Anglo-America. They were hungry to belong. But because they had long been the victims of Anglo-Saxon Protestant prejudice, the Irish distrusted the honor and integrity of the Anglo-American community.[26]


For many years, the diaspora identity of Irish immigrants was nourished by reference to their pre-immigration experiences; although, with their domination of urban police forces and Democratic party machines, the Irish were not powerless in the United States, they retained for a long time a memory of powerlessness in the old country. Whether that experience is still fresh enough in peoples’ memories to keep alive a collective diaspora identity is a matter of controversy.

            The Jewish myth of return is articulated in the phrase, repeated at every Passover seder outside of Israel itself, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Do the Irish in America proclaim “Next Year in Dublin” or the Chinese in the United States, Canada, or Singapore, “Next Year in Beijing”? Do the Jamaicans have a myth of return? Do they think of Kingston, Jamaica, as a homeland and London as diaspora? According to one observer of the members of Caribbean communities in London, diaspora-homeland relationships are reflected in the fact that “migrants [to London] continue to send home remittances [to Jamaica] for as long as they intend to return.”[27] On the basis of that criterion, the diaspora seems to be diminishing in the Caribbean case, for remittances have declined dramatically. Such a measure of hostland-homeland relationships has its problems; many immigrants cannot send remittances because of their poverty, and for that reason their alienation vis-à-vis their host society remains, and consequently, their diaspora identity. The opposite may be true of Jews in the diaspora, whose economic assistance to Israel seems to be inversely related to their intention to make aliya.

Is a “Homeland” Necessary? The Question of Location

Roger Caratini has used the term “centrifugal minorities.”[28] If one applies that label to diasporas, the implication is that the homeland is the center, and the hostland the periphery. Or, to use the “solar system” analogy of Michael Bruneau, the homeland is the sun and the various diasporas are part of an expanding constellation of stars formed around it.[29] What if the sun is too far away and no longer warms the satellite—how long can the memory of its former light linger on? Caratini has referred not only to the Kurds as “centrifugal” groups, but also to Corsicans, Basques, and Chicanos. Are the latter three communities diasporas? The question of hostland-homeland relationship is complicated by the fact that in some cases, it is not clear where is the homeland and where the hostland. According to Robin Cohen, Jamaicans and other West Indians cannot clearly focus on an original homeland, because it is too far in the past and its location is uncertain, so that the Caribbean people in Europe are “a diaspora of a diaspora.”[30] Does the same label apply to the Volga Germans—were they a diaspora in relation to the German homeland of their distant ancestors or, rather, of the Crimea, where they had lived for generations before being dispersed to Siberia under Stalin?

            The Kurds do have a homeland in the general geographic sense; but it is not quite clear where is their present homeland and where is their Middle Eastern diaspora. Are any of the countries adjacent to Turkey diasporas, or are they all homelands and hostlands simultaneously? Is not the real diaspora in Europe and elsewhere outside the Middle East?

            Is it absolutely necessary for a diaspora to have a home country? Jews have a historic homeland, and there is little doubt about its location. Yet although some Jews have returned to the homeland once it achieved independence, for the majority of diaspora Jews it is little more than a tourist destination; and for the majority of them, who have never visited Israel, it is not even that.[31] More frequently, Israel remains a symbolic place and a millenarian concept. There are still other Jews to whom the homeland has ceased to have any meaning at all; from the end of the 19th century to the present, there have been secular Jews (such as Bundists and autonomists) who have found sufficient cultural substitutes in the diaspora (e.g., Yiddish, a socialist ideology, and selected customs) to dispense both with what Hayyim Zhitlowsky called “a moribund religion”[32] and with a homeland focus; and there are others again—such as Albert Memmi and Richard Marienstras—who conceive of a “free-standing” diaspora in the sense that the feeling of being different defines diaspora without any cultural elements such as religion (Judaism), language (Hebrew, Yiddish, or Ladino), or a homeland ideology (Zionism).[33]

            What about minority communities that do not have a clear focus on a “home” country, or even a memory or myth about one, that they could reject, such as the Roma and Sinti—do they have a collective consciousness of diaspora? Do they have an image of a pre-diasporic condition? Do the members of these communities who have been sedentarized become “rediasporized” if their hope of economic and political integration is frustrated, and if so, on what external homeland would they pin their hopes? Similarly, is there agreement among the Parsis about the site of the homeland? Are African-Americans able to focus on the location of their original home country more specifically than on a vast geographical area, and does the imprecision of that focus attenuate or accentuate their diaspora consciousness?

            The Kurds and the Saami (Lapps) are both stateless ethnonational communities; both are dispersed among several adjoining countries; and both have distinct languages, traditions, and lifestyles. Unlike the Kurds, however, the Saami have never considered themselves a diaspora and have not articulated a desire for autonomy.[34] There are two major reasons for that difference: insufficient demographic “thickness,” given a total population of 60,000 widely dispersed over three Scandinavian states with a combined population of 20 million; and a traditional economic base, considered inadequate to maintain a state. One may perhaps add the fact that, unlike the Kurds, the Saami have no globally dispersed communities that provide funds or help to create a politicized diasporic consciousness.

“Beached” Diasporas

Is diaspora necessarily a consequence of the mass movement of an ethnonational or religious group from one place to another? What about ethnic minorities who have not moved from their homeland to some other place? Is the involuntary expatriation of these groups equivalent to diaspora? Have they become a diaspora by virtue of boundary shifts, even though they may be physically close, or even adjacent, to the homeland?

            This question is now most frequently posed with respect to the Russians who were left behind in Latvia and Estonia after the end of the Cold War in a condition referred to as a “beached” diaspora.[35] Have they been forcibly driven out of their homeland, and are they now prevented by the “host” country from returning to that homeland, so that the government of the latter is under pressure to defend their cultural, political, and economic interests? It is interesting to note that the Russians themselves refer to their ethnic brethren in the Baltic countries not as diasporas that are agents of Russian irredentism, but rather as russkoyazychniye (Russian-speaking) Latvians or Estonians or simply as etnicheskiye russkie (ethnic Russians).[36] Such labels are not necessarily permanent; they may change as the Russophones in Latvia develop a diaspora identity in response to a Latvian policy of suppression of the Russian language.

Similar questions of label can be raised with respect to other expatriated groups:

·        Did the Ukrainians and Belorussians who found themselves in post-World War I Poland (restored and enlarged beyond the Curzon line) regard themselves as living in diaspora? Conversely, is it proper to label as a diaspora the Poles who have continued to live in Vilnius, once a thoroughly Polish city, after it became the capital of Lithuania? Did the French-speaking Strasbourgeois regard themselves as living in diaspora when, after the Franco-Prussian war, Alsace was attached to Germany; and conversely, did the Germanic-speaking Alsatian villagers think of themselves as a diaspora after World War I, when the province was reattached to France? Similarly, are the Magyars in the Romanian province of Transylvania in diaspora, or are they at home? Are they merely politically deterritorialized as a result of boundary changes?

·        Are the Flemings living in French-speaking localities in the Belgian province of Brabant in a sort of internal diaspora, when they have always lived in these places? Anthony D. Smith regards the Ibos living in Nigeria outside Biafra, the Tamils living in non-Tamil areas in Sri Lanka, and the Basques living in non-Basque areas in Spain as diasporas.[37] By the same token one would have to consider a Walloon living in a Flemish area of Belgium, a Corsican living in Marseilles, and a Yankee living in Alabama as being in diaspora! (An objection may be raised in the case of the last-named category, for the transplanted Yankees continue to live in a cultural-linguistic environment that is not much different from the one they had left; but the same objection applies to the Palestinian Arab population that had been transplanted from Israel and the “West Bank” to Jordan.).

·        Are the Serbs residing in Republika Srpska, which is a semi-autonomous statelet within the recently created State of Bosnia, in a diaspora or in a terra irredenta? And if these Serbs returned to what is left of Yugoslavia, where they are not welcome, would they be a diaspora in that country? Similarly, would the Arab citizens of Israel be a Palestinian diaspora after the creation of an independent Palestinian state?

·        Did the ethnic Germans who remained in Silesia after World War II become a diaspora when that province was incorporated into Poland? Do the citizens of Moldova consider themselves a Romanian diaspora, when they are perfectly at liberty to cross the border into Romania, and when the Moldovans are able collectively to unite with that country but, no matter the reason, choose not to do so? Were the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo a diaspora under the Tito regime; or did they become one in relation to Albania when Slobodan Milosevic, the president of the rump state of Yugoslavia, took away their autonomy? Were the Austrians part of a German-speaking diaspora (Auslandsdeutsche) between 1945 and 1989, the period during which they were forced to remain outside the German Federal Republic? Are they such a diaspora today?

·        Unlike the Sikhs who are dispersed throughout India and abroad, who are components of a far-flung diaspora, those concentrated in the Punjab live in their traditional homeland; but as long as their yearning for an independent Khalistan remains unfulfilled they are, in a political sense, in diaspora.

There are cases of physical dispersion of groups of individuals who, individually have a specific country of origin, but whose diaspora status remains unclear.

·         Are the German Nazis who left for South America after World War II a diaspora? Their expatriation had taken place under duress, for had they remained in Germany they would probably have been indicted for war crimes. They clearly have a homeland myth and a continuing (though often clandestine) connection with Germany, and might return home if that country were to develop in a different political direction; but since this is unlikely, the dispersed Nazis must hide their identities either by assimilating or going underground. This situation makes the maintenance of institutions difficult, thereby impeding the transmission of the proper yearning for Germany to the expatriates’ offspring and undermining the cohesion of the diaspora.[38]

·        A few years ago a writer referred to terrorist networks as a new kind of diaspora dispersed to the USA, Afghanistan, Western Europe, Canada, the Philippines, and the Middle East.[39] Its members are not, however, oriented toward a specific physical homeland and, since they rarely meet, they cannot maintain open diasporic institutions. This phenomenon should not be equated with the constantly growing Muslim diaspora embracing Iraqis, West Bank Arabs, Iranians, and Pakistanis fleeing from oppression and economic hardship in their homelands and building communal organizations in various hostlands.

·        Were the pieds noirs in Algeria a diaspora while that country was formally a part of France, or were they transformed into a diaspora the moment Algeria obtained its independence? Are the French citizens who live in France’s Overseas Departments and Overseas Territories a diaspora, or a they merely “overseas French”? The answer to both questions depends upon whether the “center” (the metropolis) is considered the “true” homeland, or whether it is the “periphery” (the outlying region or colony), where an individual was born and had kinship and emotional ties, that is the homeland. Are the Armenians who live in Nagorno-Karabagh, which is nearly adjacent to their “nuclear” homeland, a diaspora?[40] In other words, does their diaspora consciousness differ from the situation that prevailed when both Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan were part of the Soviet Union?

            A less controversial argument can be made for members of communities that find themselves in a neighboring state or province as a consequence of having been forcibly removed there, as seems to be the case in East Timor: As many of those who remain alive after the current slaughter of the indigenous population will be dispersed to West Timor and other areas within Indonesia, will there be an East Timorese diaspora? Probably so, even if little but memory is left of the East Timorese homeland community. The situation is, however, more complicated with respect to the Germans who had been living in Poland and (what is now) the Czech Republic for many generations and who were expelled and settled in the German Federal Republic. Is it proper to consider them as living in diaspora when, in point of fact, they have “returned” to the land of their ancestors?

Language and Culture as Diasporic Markers

How far must the culture of an immigrant community have digressed from that of its original homeland before the traces of diaspora consciousness can be said to have disappeared? The role of language in the maintenance of diaspora sentiments is as controversial as that of language in ethnic consciousness in general. Surely there is a difference between Irish-Americans or Polish-Americans, on the one hand and the descendants of Welsh immigrants in Argentina, on the other. The former have forgotten their native languages, cultures, and histories; the latter have maintained cohesive communities where Welsh festivals, complete with recitations of Welsh poetry, are observed, communities in which the Welsh language continues to be taught in local public schools.[41]

            The perpetuation of ethnic idioms may help a minority community to survive as a diaspora but does not guarantee its survival, if only because languages change in contact with those of the surrounding society. The language of Québec is French, which, despite certain regional specificities, can be understood without too much difficulty by Francophones in the Hexagon; but that does not mean that the Francophone Québécois consider themselves a diaspora, nor could President de Gaulle convince them that they were. However, if the culture and language of an expatriate community have evolved to such an extent that they have only a tenuous resemblance to those of the motherland, should the former still be regarded as a diaspora? Can it be said that the culture of Haiti still has a meaningful resemblance to that of France; or that the language and culture and of the Afrikaans-speaking whites of South Africa are still so meaningfully related to those of the Netherlands that the Afrikaners regard themselves as a Dutch diaspora? Haitian French has a rather weak relationship to the language of the Parisian bourgeoisie, and the kinship between the two idioms that is occasionally proclaimed has more to do with French foreign policy than with cultural rapprochement. Afrikaans has become a separate language, and it is doubtful that the resemblance that still exists between it and standard Dutch has led many Afrikaners to think of themselves as a Netherlands diaspora.

            The members of the Acadian (“Cajun”) community in North America are dispersed over three maritime provinces of eastern Canada; and all they have to keep their identity distinct from the vast majority of Anglophones who surround them is the French language and selected aspects of their Acadian culture. Thus they have reconstituted a historic village and restored a number of small wooden houses of the 18th century, as if to reify a mythified community. But if they are a diaspora, where is their homeland—is it Québec or France? Meanwhile, the Acadians do not want to “return” either to France or to Québec; nor do they hope for independence for the latter. On the contrary, they fear that if Québec became independent there would be no one with sufficient political weight to protect their culture within the remaining Anglophone universe.[42]

            The place of language in the collective identity of minorities remains a matter of controversy. To “constructivist” social scientists who believe that ethnicity is an artificial creation and an instrumental identity (often manipulated by “ethnic entrepreneurs”), language is relatively unimportant; to others, it is of primary importance. There is no doubt that the Hebrew language was crucial in the maintenance of the diasporic sentiments of the Sephardic community in pre-Inquisition Spain and among the Ashkenazim in central and eastern Europe. Yehuda Halevi, a medieval Sephardi writer, wrote all his poems in Hebrew; one of them, “My heart is in the East, and I am in the uttermost West,” is one of the best expressions of longing for the homeland. Yet Maimonides, the major philosopher of the medieaval Jewish diaspora, wrote some of his major works in Arabic.

            The role of language in the homeland aspirations of diasporas is equally puzzling. The Zionist masses in Eastern Europe in the 19th century spoke Yiddish, then the major language of the Jewish diaspora, not Hebrew, the traditional homeland language. The aspirations of Irish independence were promoted (by Eamon de Valera and others), not in Irish Gaelic, but in English; and the strivings of the Jewish diaspora for a “return” to Zion were articulated by Theodor Herzl in German, not in Hebrew, a language with which he was not very familiar. Throughout the centuries, Jews have used one or another “transpolitical” language that served as a lingua franca for the diaspora, such as Aramaic, Yiddish, Ladino, and Hebrew. In our own time, the vocabulary, morphology, and accent of Israeli Hebrew have evolved so dramatically that the language cannot be easily understood by diaspora Jews brought up on Biblical Hebrew in its varied Ashkenazic pronunciations. Few American Jews speak any of these Jewish languages, yet the diaspora identity of many Jews in the United States continues to be strong, and to be expressed in English, which, for all practical purposes, has become a transethnic language. Conversely, although Latin American and Castilian Spanish are still quite similar and mutually intelligible, the people of Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru hardly think of themselves as a diaspora in relation to Spain.[43]

The Economic Dimension

To what extent is it legitimate to define diaspora in economic terms? J.S. Furnivall, M.G. Smith, T.R. Gurr and others (especially Marxists) have discussed minority groups in terms of “ethnoclasses”—as creations or epiphenomena of capitalism. Does this analysis necessarily apply to diasporas? It is true that there are economic explanations for the slavery that created a black diaspora on the American continent; that trade and commerce contributed to the creation of a Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia; and that the middleman occupations of Jews, Armenians, Indians, and Greeks in various parts of the world reinforced the diaspora consciousness of these minority communities and facilitated the transpolitical relationships among them. It is also true that Chinese, Poles, and Italians were brought into the United States as “scab” laborers” in the 19th century; but their descendants have long ago ceased to regard themselves as belonging to diasporas. In any case, how did “classical” capitalism relate to the Babylonian exile; what did it have to do with Jewish reaction to the Dreyfus affair; and to what extent was “modern” capitalism the proximate cause of the movement of Jews from diaspora to Israel, or from one diaspora to another—from Nazi Germany and, later, the Soviet Union and post-communist Russia, to the West? And how did capitalism figure in the creation of the Armenian, Kurdish, and Cuban diasporas? It must be admitted that many Israelis have left the homeland to move to the diaspora for economic reasons (as well as for reasons of physical insecurity); however, in so doing they did not create a (new) diaspora but joined one that already existed.

            The economic dimension cannot be ignored in the discussion of the collective attitudes of the Chicanos of New Mexico and Southern California. They had been incorporated against their will into the territory of the United States; they often invoke the memory of the unjust treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo; and many of them live under conditions of deprivation relative to their WASP fellow citizens. Yet few Chicanos consider themselves a diaspora in relation to Mexico, if only because they have evolved politically in a direction so different from, and their economic status is so superior to, that of their neighbors across the frontier that they do not harbor any notion of “returning” to Mexico. The determinism of the economic factor is even more uncertain in the case of the Armenians, the Chinese, and the Jewish minorities in the lands of their dispersion.

Theorists of “rational choice” would argue that these minorities have become prosperous, and the conviction that their prosperity is better assured in their hostlands than their homelands would have the effect of “de-diasporizing” their identities. These theorists would also argue that, in our era of globalization and growing supranationalism, many prosperous business and professional people left their homelands voluntarily with their families for economic reasons, thereby helping to form “bourgeois” expatriate communities. This situation would apply to communities of Britons living in Germany or France, or communities of French or German citizens living and working in the United Kingdom on a permanent basis under the policies of free movement of individuals within the European Union. There are tens of thousands of Americans, including officials of multinational corporations, who have settled in France and other European countries for professional reasons. They continue to speak English; they often enroll their children in American schools; and they have every intention to return to the United States when their tour of duty ends. They often have transnational identities; they may feel equally at home in the United States and a Western European country; they may be completely bilingual; and they may have dual citizenship. Yet their expatriation is for the most part conditioned by economic and professional exigencies rather than factors of kinship or culture. Are they a diaspora?

Global economic and certain other “transactional” networks are sometimes equated with diasporas (and vice versa) because they share two important features: they have transpolitical solidarities and they are able to escape the political control of a single nation. Indeed, some economic networks are strongly identified with particular ethnic groups—such as the Mafia with Italians—just as some terrorist groups—such as Al-Quaeda—are identified with Saudi Arabians. But most Italians are not members of the Mafia (which also includes non-Italians); and most Saudis are not members of Al-Quaeda (which also includes other Islamic fundamentalists).

            In any case, for a variety of reasons economic considerations have often failed to overcome diaspora identities based heavily on other factors: racial distinctiveness (the Chinese); religious proscriptions and the behaviorial and dress codes associated with them (the Jews and the Sikhs); the memory of past persecutions (the Armenians and the Jews); and miscellaneous incidents. Jews often imposed upon themselves customs that were not “the way of the Gentiles” in food, clothing, forms of prayer, and so on, customs that often put Jews at a relative economic disadvantage.[44] Another example is the emigration of bourgeois Jews in central Europe to Palestine before the advent of Hitler; they became downwardly mobile by doing agricultural and menial work.

            The vast majority of Jews in the United States, including Zionists, feel perfectly at home in their hostland, where their economic status has, grosso modo, been highly satisfactory. Yet few of these Jews can claim that they have never encountered anti-Semitism; few wish to escape from sharing in the collective responsibility and solidarity with Jews in other countries; and even “de-Judaized” Jews are not indifferent to the fate of Israel. To cite an example: De Gaulle’s 1967 diatribe concerning the Jews—as “an elite people, sure of itself, and domineering”—had the unintended effect of “re-ethnifying” the identity of most Jews in France, including those who had long ago ceased to regard themselves as living in diaspora.[45] In this connection it should be noted that the North African Jewish repatriates in France share the Holocaust memory of their Ashkenazic fellow citizens.


Contextual Factors

What demographic consistency, what degree of institutionalization, and what markers—religion, culture, memory, custom, or selective self-isolation—are required to cause members of a minority ethnic or religious categoric group to regard themselves, and to be regarded by others—both the host society and the “home” country—as a diaspora? Is the existence of transpolitical networks between expatriates and the home country a decisive, or even a sufficient, factor in generating diaspora consciousness among the expatriates? Is a kinship connection with a home country a sufficient condition for sharing diaspora consciousness? Is it a necessary condition for sharing such a consciousness? Can it include individuals who have converted, or married, into the ethnic or religious community? Can the criteria once mentioned by Ernest Renan for being part of [a] national community—sharing “a rich inheritance of common glories . . . a memory of a heroic past, and a common fate”[46]—be applied to a diaspora, whose very existence is to a great extent based on a separate memory of a perhaps equally heroic past? Unfortunately, the heroic past of the majority of the host nation may be associated by a minority with grief and misfortune. The standard history in France is Catholic history; and despite the continued presence of Jews in that country since the days of Caesar, they do not have a proper place in its history. Thus, the celebration of the achievements of Saint Louis reminds Jews of the massacres of the Crusades; to Muslims, the Battle of Poitiers recalls the expulsion of their Islamic forebears; and the exploits of Joan of Arc remind the Protestants of their defeat.[47] Conversely, the collective trauma on which much of the Serbian national identity is based—the defeat at Kosovo Polje in the 14th century—is not shared by the Albanian Kosovars.

To what extent do cultural, religious, or racial factors play a role in maintaining diasporic identity? On the one hand, the culture of the minority may be perceived by its members as so superior to that of the hostland majority that there is no incentive to abandon the former in favor of the latter. Perceptual differences that determine diasporic identity may be a generational matter. Thus one observer, citing Israel Zangwill, suggests that while many first-generation Jews born in Britain “viewed themselves with pride as Britishers, the old ones could never quite understand the importance of becoming English,” because they regarded Jewish civilization as older and greater than English.[48] Most descendants of immigrants have not been taught much, if anything, about their homeland civilization, the problems of the Old Country, and the complexes of their forebears who have left it, and they are not burdened with the diasporic baggage, unless they have personal experience of discrimination or believe themselves to be rootless—in which case they are subjected to Hansen’s Law, according to which there is a third-generation atavism, marked by an attempt to retrieve the culture of the Old Country and with it, a diasporic identity.

            In order to maintain their distinctiveness and their communal cohesion, most “enlightened” Jews have maintained (or reconstructed) an array of particularistic cultural paraphernalia, behavioral attributes, and institutions. Such measures have not prevented the Jews’ selective, and often successful, adaptation to the host society; and these measures, although they have not, in most cases, ended the Jews’ diaspora identity, have at least lightened the historical burdens associated with that identity. For the Jewish diaspora, adaptation to the hostland culture has applied to Judaism, which has been selectively Europeanized in order to make it less “alien” vis-à-vis the dominant religion. In contrast, there are expatriate minorities whose religious and political traditions may be so at variance with those of the hostland majority that assimilation becomes difficult and the diaspora identity is accentuated. The question sometimes posed to Jews by well-meaning Christians in the United States, “Just how do you Jews observe Christmas?” is an innocent one; but the widespread belief in France that Islam is incompatible with French republican values is less innocent, because it conveys a refusal to consider the possibility of assimilating Muslims into the French nation. It promotes the feeling of Maghrebis in the Hexagon that they will remain outsiders and makes it difficult for them to abandon their diaspora identities.

            A major factor in the growing phenomenon of expatriation has been globalization. Its effect on diasporas, however, is ambiguous. It is generally admitted that globalization contributes to the massive movement of populations from their homeland to a hostland and hence may create new diasporas; moreover, as minority communities in hostlands are enlarged by new waves of immigrants, a gradually waning diaspora identity among earlier immigrants may be resuscitated. In addition, the permeability of borders and the ease of communication and transportation make it easier for expatriate ethnonational groups to keep in close touch with the homeland and periodically to replenish its cultural resources. Since globalization tends to aggravate the economic exploitation of the unskilled, poor, and powerless, it may accentuate diasporization insofar as many immigrant societies fall into these categories. Conversely, the diaspora identity of new immigrants may fail to develop if they are in contact with well-assimilated coethnics who had immigrated several generations earlier. Moreover, globalization contributes to secularization and to the development of a transnational mass culture; the one would leave less room for religious diversity (or for religion as a marker of collective identity), and the other, for cultural diversity. In short, globalization has a homogenizing impact on all cultures, so that the homeland and hostland cultures are no longer as distinct as before. But globalization has also led to the decline of the “absolutist” approach to  membership in the political community, one that separates political from ethnocultural identity and makes room for the recognition of diversities and accommodates to the continued existence of diaspora communities.[49]

The Institutional Setting

Institutional backing of an ethnic or religious minority would seem to be necessary for the maintenance of diasporic identity; but such backing requires a sufficiently large number of people, an ethnic (or religious) elite that has a stake in the continuation of diaspora, a degree of rootedness that is, by definition, not present in a relatively transient minority community, and an overall political context that facilitates the building of autonomous non-governmental organizations. Such a context tends to exist in democratic polities, which are characterized by a robust civil society that provides opportunity structures in the form of private spheres in which ethnic and/or religious minorities may maintain their own institutions that enable them to influence the public authorities. The universe of democratic regimes includes not only “nation-states” but also multinational states. In the latter, there tends to be a habitual institutionalized commitment to cultural pluralism, marked by ethnic accommodation policies or power-sharing schemes—by means of federalism, consociation, patronage, local options, or functional (or personal) autonomy—that are often accorded to indigenous ethnic communities (e.g., the Low Countries). These countries, in which lobbying is a constitutional right of ethnic minorities, make it easier for immigrants to maintain their cultural or emotional identities without incurring the charge of dual political allegiance. These migrants “may never identify with their adopted country in terms of political loyalty, culture, and language, and hence [one uses] the term ‘diaspora,’ which implies a certain degree of social distance between the migrant community and the receiving country.”[50] Nevertheless, these migrants will gradually become habituated to their hostland and regard it as a “home away from home.”

Not all democratic countries, however, are “pluralist” in the ethnic or cultural sense, and these make it difficult for diasporas to maintain themselves as such. Thus the Poles who settled in France in the 19th century lost their diaspora identities not only because they lacked the requisite population density and ethnic entrepreneurs, but also—and perhaps primarily—because the Jacobin republican culture of the hostland discouraged the perpetuation of ethnic minority communities. In terms of the “civic” (or functional) definition of membership in the community of French republics, a major element of Jacobinism, culture, nation(ality), and political community are conflated—so that parallel or supplementary cultural or emotional orientations (as reflected in ascriptive or “organic” communities) are suspect. The suspicion, which has traditionally applied to indigenous minorities (e.g., Bretons and Basques) is magnified in the case of diasporas to the extent that their orientations are transpolitical, so that diasporas are considered subversive almost by definition.

            Yet the relationship between the nature of the regime and diasporic identity remains unclear. An oppressive authoritarian regime impedes the free articulation as well as the institutional expression of diaspora consciousness, so that such consciousness gradually weakens to the point of disappearance; conversely, the authoritarian regime may be so oppressive that the “imagined” homeland becomes more attractive and diaspora consciousness is sharpened. In contrast, a democratic regime that has an open society, that allows the free expression and retention of minority culture, and that does not interfere with a reciprocal relationship between the homeland and its expatriated kin in the hostland is clearly conducive to the maintenance of diaspora identity. Yet it can also be argued that democracy may have precisely the opposite effect. A tolerant, pluralistic, and polyarchically structured regime may co-opt ethnic minorities, and in so doing make the continuation of diasporic sentiment (one based on perceptions of “relative deprivation”) unnecessary. A democratic regime is a responsive one, a fact that is often reflected in the welfare state; such a regime does not make it easy for diasporas to maintain their identities. If the welfare state connotes a set of genuinely redistributive public policies, ethnic minorities are less dependent on their own communal resources and hence are less likely to retain diaspora identities.

Modernity and Postmodernity

Most observers have defined diaspora variously in terms of legal status, memory of the homeland, physical distance from it, the nature of relations with it, and/or a collective consciousness of being different from the majority due to differences in origin. Being able to trace that origin to a location outside the country of residence, however, is not equivalent to being in diaspora for, as was pointed out above, if one goes back far enough, most people have ancestors who had come from somewhere else. The fact of migration has to be reflected in a collective consciousness; such consciousness clearly exists among people who stand out because of their religion, language, and other markers of difference. Not all transplanted minorities have made the same efforts at preserving such markers. Old immigrants to the United States were intent upon assimilation, having rejected the excessive traditionalism and poverty of the Old Country and having been captivated by the “wide open spaces” and opportunities of the New World. More recent immigrants have been more interested in preserving their cultural, emotional, and communal identities, having come to realize the limitations within the hostland, its socioeconomic problems and superficialities, and to experience a growing anomie resulting from the coldness of human relationships in industrial (or postindustrial society). If such relationships can be described as “modern,” then the reaction and resistance to them, and hence the persistence of diasporic identities, can be labeled “postmodern.”

            It is not always clear what is meant by “postmodernity”; to some, it refers to premodern, i.e., traditional, attitudes; to others, it is a rejection of, or a rebellion against, certain aspects of modernity, such as secularism and functional societal relationships; to still others it is a quest for community, if not kinship, a return to familistic-ascriptive models of society, and a general discontent with the consequences of globalization. It is also a rejection of a rational-choice (i.e.,  economic cost-benefit) approach to behavior. These attitudes lead to “diasporization,” which is defined as the “ethnification of transnational connections.”[51]

            Postmodernists argue that diaspora connotes the feeling of “otherness,” which may be based on factors other than migration. Diaspora, in other words, defines a feeling of not truly belonging, because one’s race, religion, language, or way of life is at variance with those of the majority population, so that formal membership in the political community is not congruent with membership in the social community.

This absence of congruence, which creates or accentuates the diaspora identity of minorities, was expressed by the Germans who distinguished between Staatsangehörigkeit, based on legal-political criteria, and Volkszugehörigkeit, based on “organic” criteria and, under the Nazis, racial ones. Theoretically, such a distinction does not exist in republican France, where, according to the Jacobin dogma the two kinds of membership are fused. Nevertheless, many French people continue to make distinctions between “les Franco-français” and “les autres,” and refer to Jews in terms of their origins (“Français d’origine israélite”) but not to Catholics (i.e., “Français d’origine catholique”). The lack of “belongingness” may be reflected in various ways: in referring to individuals in terms of color; in typecasting them in terms of their accents or intonations—or, as former President Chirac once put it, in terms of “odors and noises; and in holding members of minority communities responsible for the policies of their countries of origin.

The “Diaspora” Personality as the Embodiment of Ambiguity

Diasporans are different from mere immigrants because they are not fleeing from their original identities, or what they believe them to be. They relate somehow to a homeland, whether real or imaginary. That relationship can take many forms, ranging from “a mental relationship” with ‘imagined’ homeland at one extreme to periodical visits to it at the other extreme.”[52] In other words, members of diasporas can be divided into the following types:

(1)   those who replicate as faithfully as possible the physical surroundings of the homeland, as in the case of residents of Chinatowns;

(2)   those who try to reproduce old country way of life in the hostland, in the form of prayers, benevolent associations, and elements of the homeland language (e.g., a smattering of Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, or Yiddish);

(3)   those who romanticize the shtetl or the barrio without having experienced it personally; but it is a merely expressive identification because it is not associated with appropriate cultural pursuits;

(4)   those who are proud of the fact that their grandparents came from a particular caste in India or a particular guberniya in the Russian-Polish Pale. (The “Old Country” is here considered a “homeland” in relation to the “new country.”);

(5)   those who are proud of visiting singers or athletes from their former homeland—as, for example, Beurs who identify with French soccer hero Zinédine Zidane; Britons whose parents had immigrated from Pakistan cheering the visiting Pakistani cricket team as it defeated the British team; British Muslims buying jihad videos, or passively supporting bin Laden and the Al Quaeda terrorists;[53]

(6)   those who sing songs about the “Old Country.”

Obviously the first group is the most “diasporic,” but it has not succeeded in reproducing every feature of the homeland, for the hostland context makes that impossible. That includes the caste system; gender inequality; religious “intégrisme”; the role of elders; arranged marriages—failures that make the prospect of a real, physical return difficult and highly improbable. For the last four groups, diaspora consciousness is little more than a symbolic ethnicity. Today, computer technology has changed that relationship and narrowed the difference between these extremes.

In the absence of a concrete connection with a homeland, one may construct a narrative about it. In Les Fils d’Abraham, Marek Halter, a French Jew, has provided a lengthy historical epic of descendance. The same is true of Alex Haley’s Roots. But it is doubtful whether Haley’s narrative is sufficient for the mass of black intellectuals in the USA; it is perhaps for that reason that they call themselves African-American, in order to give themselves the sort of “hyphenated” identity that parallels that of Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans that is thought to provide the latter with a kind of identitarian autonomy. Sometimes a homeland is “constructed” as a center of origin, as in the case of Africa, which Marcus Garvey did with Africa, although in this case it was not a construction ex nihilo.

There is the danger that narratives take the place of experience or historical memory in defining diaspora so that it refers not only to a tension between hostland and homeland but also “otherness” associated with various kinds of cultural alienation, maladjustments, losses, and unusual experiences. André Aciman, an expatriate writer, is quoted as saying “I think it is very hard to be a human being without having lost something that is very important, and we live partly to make up for that loss…But it defines who we are. Some of us have lost a country. Some of us have lost a family. Most of us are exiles from who we are or who we would like to be.”[54]

But not all who have lost something are ipso facto in diaspora, nor is all alienation or “otherness.” Ian Buruma warns against the postmodern tendency to transform the notion of “diaspora” or exile into a metaphor for loneliness, disorientation, or intellectual or moral detachment, and he takes issue with Edward Said’s insistence that “exile is the typical condition of the modern intellectual.”[55] He points out that the voluntary exile of the intellectual who lived in comfortable conditions in the homeland is a far cry from the exile who has fled oppression; the latter sleeps on a cold bench in the railroad station in his hostland refuge city, whereas the he former, having lost nothing, goes abroad of his own free will to another place of comfort, and does so in order to acquire an additional dimension of education, to further his career, and to add luster to his personality. In this case, “exile becomes sexy, glamorous, interesting.”[56]

In short, for some, living abroad is not diaspora; in the case of others, diasporic identity is not automatically abandoned when they return to their homeland, for when they do, they may find that it is no longer “home.” As a Chinese-American writer has remarked about overseas Chinese visiting the homeland, “When they leave it after their visit they feel that they have left something of themselves behind, yet they also realize that they could never live there. Deep in their hearts they know that they love China best when they live well away from the place.”[57] This is equally true of most American Jews, who adore the idea of Israel but would not want to live there because the reality of the country would destroy their idealized image of it. In short, their real home is the diaspora. Many Indian intellectuals who return to their native land after spending years abroad to study or work find that they are out of place; and many Jews who have made aliya carry the diaspora with them in terms of their personality and view of their surroundings. Indeed, if diaspora means exile as an existential condition, then diasporism has spread to Israel itself—a situation that does not apply to other homelands. As a Yiddish saying has it, “one can take a Jew out of diaspora, but not diaspora out of the Jew.” This is reflected in the fact that the collective feelings of global “aloneness” in the face of ongoing persecutions, expulsions, and existential threats have been perpetuated among large sectors of the Israeli population, who are convinced that their country is constantly in danger of destruction and that the legitimacy of their homeland is widely questioned on ideological or religious grounds.[58] Conversely, some of the current “post-Zionist” revisionism is analogous to the diasporic concern about “what do the goyim think,” and perhaps even to forms of self-hatred found among Jewish intellectuals in fin-de-siècle central Europe.

            If we define diaspora as something going beyond merely physical elements of dispersion, then we cannot ignore the “exile” (galut) aspect of the Jewish diaspora, which goes beyond the “generic” diaspora. I argue that most of my criteria apply to the overwhelming majority of Jews, including those in the United States, even including those who replace the theological galut with a purely physical (and theologically neutral) concept of diaspora.[59]

            Yet in terms of their behavior, many Jews no longer conform to the premodern diasporic tradition. There are those who contend that the specificity of the Jewish diaspora has been weakening to such an extent that it is no longer a paradigmatic one; that Jewish identity is becoming like other ethnic identities; that Jewish culture has become a thin one marked by the abandonment of dietary laws, of Jewish languages and dress, and of endogamy; that signs of a Jewish presence in urban areas—e.g., synagogues, Jewish neighborhoods, and kosher butcher shops—are less visible; that vague sentiments of “homeland” are coming to resemble Pulaski Day parades or San Gennaro festivals; that Jewish identity has been reduced to “Judaism lite”: the observance of watered-down rites of passage, the purchase of Jewish ritual objects to decorate one’s home, and residues of gastronomic Jewishness, that is, “kosher-style,” rather than kosher, food; and that for many Jews, Israel been transformed from a place of “pilgrimage to playground,” exemplified by bar mitzvah celebrations at the Western Wall in Jerusalem or Club Med holidays at the Mediterranean.[60]

In view of the foregoing, some recent observers would raise doubts about whether the Jews in western democracies are still a diaspora. For these observers, diaspora identity has less to do with a community’s location outside the homeland than with its general “fit” into its place of residence. They equate the diasporic condition with particularism, “retraditionalization,” cultural marginality, and the precariousness of a community’s condition.[61] Other observers have gone further; they have argued that diaspora can be defined as alienation tout court. That definition has been characteristic of the postmodern approach, according to which “complex transformations, questions, and problems deemed to be constitutive of the present are not adequately articulated in prevailing forms of theory and analysis,”[62] because these are reflections of the hegemonic culture. Like all social phenomena, diaspora is not an unchallenged factual condition; rather, it is as much a product of the imagination as is Benedict Anderson’s national community. In short, the postmodern approach to diaspora is based not on empirical elements understood (according to the criteria of modern social science) cross-nationally, cross-culturally, and intersubjectively, but rather on individual “narratives” and discourses, in our case narratives of “diasporaness.”[63] To the extent that a postmodern view of diaspora—as, indeed, of other realities—is based on subjective readings of one’s situation, the very concept of diaspora loses much of its utility for sociopolitical analysis. In order to restore that utility it is necessary to come to a general agreement about the objective features that distinguish diaspora from other consequences of population movements.

Concluding Observations

While the study of diaspora has been flourishing, many approaches to the subject have been met with a variety of critiques. One of the most frequent has been the charge that the study has been “too Jewish;” as Michele Reis argues, “[p]erhaps the task of defining diaspora would be far less problematic if the Jewish Diaspora ceased to be used as the norm for determining which groups are relegated to a minority transnational community, diaspora, or other grouping.”[64] She also argues that “ pervading Eurocentric analyses have proven inimical to portraying diaspora in their significant  role as transnational actors…[and that] Third World diasporas are not being accurately represented and Western Europe is to a large extent not associated with being a diaspora.” The first charge amounts to beating a dead horse, and the second is unproven. Others have argued that the diaspora concept is too restrictive in its application (Tölölyan); that it has put too much emphasis on transnationalism (Clifford); or that too much attention has been paid to the connection with a homeland (Hall). 

Floya Anthias, in an attempt to evaluate the utility of the concept of diaspora, takes a broader view. For her, diaspora may be a heuristic concept, a descriptive typological tool, and a societal process. “It may also denote a social condition, entailing a form of consciousness, which is particularly compatible with postmodernity and globalization.” But as a concept it has been inadequate because it has not included enough; it has failed to deal properly with “the ethnic problematic” or with a variety of conditions and consciousnesses, such as race, gender, minority status, discrimination, social exclusion, hate, and so on.[65] But a single concept, no matter how fashionable, cannot serve all conceivable purposes.

            Although diaspora is a growing phenomenon today, we can only guess what its future will be. From our knowledge so far, we can restate what appears obvious: that the diaspora phenomenon has led to a rethinking of traditional notions of nation, political community, and sovereignty, and to a reexamination of the meaning of transnationalism and of the relationship between political and cultural frontiers. It is also reasonable to state a number of hypotheses, among them the following:

1. The strength and persistence of diaspora depends upon the strength and weakness of the homeland. Strong homelands facilitate the maintenance of diasporas; weak homelands are less able to do this.

2. The persistence of diaspora depends on the political and cultural context of the hostland. Democratic countries with strongly autonomous civil societies tend to be more permissive of diasporic organization and cultural expression than authoritarian ones.

3. Culturally pluralistic countries, whether democratic (such as the United States and Canada) or authoritarian (such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire), constructed on a multiethnic basis, are more tolerant of diasporas on their own soil than culturally monochromatic ones (such as France and Turkey), especially those that include culture and language within their scope of policy.

4. Ties of kinship and religion and intergenerational transmission of memories and values, which have been important factors in the maintenance of diaspora identity in the past, are strengthened with globalization and the migration and communications networks associated with it. At the same time, diaspora identity is threatened by two developments associated with globalization: modernization (which weakens Gemeinschaft relations) and the spread of a homogenized, transnational mass culture.

5. Religion and language do not play the same role in the collective cohesion of homeland and diaspora communities. Religion is weakening in most homelands but remain strong in diaspora, although religion may become more hybrid; leaders of diaspora communities (or “ethnic entrepreneurs”), even if they are themselves secular, tend to stress religion to maintain communal cohesion, and while homeland leaders often stress it in their dealings with diaspora. Language maintenance is weak in diasporas, but is a primary unifier in the homeland.

6. Although the diaspora societies attempt to maintain the social structure of the homeland, adjustments are constantly made to adapt diaspora to prevailing sociopolitical conditions in the hostland: homeland subidentities merge when they are abroad, while new subidentities may be created. Thus the social divisions of India based on religion, language, and caste are not necessarily perpetuated in diaspora: the Association of Indians in America includes Hindus and Muslims and speakers of Hindi and Bengali.[66]

7. Globalization should make the condition of diasporas easier and their legal status less fragile insofar as this development is associated with the increasing acceptance of the practice of dual citizenship.

8. The exception to the preceding hypothesis applies by and large to “stranded” or “beached” diasporas, especially in former Communist countries, as these countries pursue a “nationalizing nationalism” in an attempt to restore their pre-Communist national homogeneity (as in Estonia and Latvia).[67]

9. While homelands seek to encourage the continuation of their diasporas and to expect economic and political support from them, they do not easily accept their advice.

10. Although homelands foster the myth of return among their diasporas in order to preserve a linkage to them, they are not necessarily welcomed back, because they might undermine the homeland’s social fabric and political value system, and threaten the existing elite’s hold on power. This is particularly true of underdeveloped and autocratic homelands.

11. For a variety of reasons, most members of diaspora do not “return” to their homelands, among them the fact that economic and/or political conditions there are less attractive than in the hostland, and that real life does not conform to the image or ideal of the homeland.

12. What keeps a diaspora linked to a homeland is a common conception of peoplehood—more specifically, the notion of a common origin. However, there are rivalries between the two with regard to definining the nature of that peoplehood and its central locus. For example, in the 19th century, many expatriates “left Italy before becoming Italian;” in fact, there were not yet “Italians” when the Italian diaspora began to develop in the USA.[68]  the Indian diaspora in the Americas developed before Indian independence; Irishness in North America is claimed by people who are of Scots Protestant origin and who cannot fully identity with an arch-Catholic Irish Republic; and most members of the Jewish diaspora do not accept Israel as the center of Jewish peoplehood.

The World Trade Center bombing has brought the problem of diaspora emphatically to the surface. Some diasporas have reidentified with their fellow ethnics in the homeland because they sympathize with their grievances; others have been made to feel unwanted because of ethnic/racial profiling and increased surveillance. Still others, however, in an effort to demarcate themselves from the behavior of their homeland co-ethnics, have insisted that they are fully integrated into the host society and affirmed their loyalty to it. The events of September 2001 have posed a challenge to hostland governments as well: they can use the diaspora as scapegoats or as convenient intermediaries between themselves and homelands whose concerns need to be better understood.

Notes and References


[1] Cf. the following comprehensive studies: Paul R. Brass, Ethnicity and Nationalism: Theory and Comparison (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1991); Donald L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); Ted Robert Gurr, Minorities at Risk (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1993); Alfred Cobban, The Nation-State and National Self-Determination (New York: Crowell, 1969); Eric J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780 (Cambridge, UK: University Press, 1992); Adrian Hastings, The Construction of Nationhood (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Thomas H. Eriksen, Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives (London: Pluto Press, 1993).

[2] Vijay Mishra, “The Diasporic Imaginary: Theorizing the Indian Diaspora,” Textual Practice 10:1 (spring 1996), 422-423.

[3] Dominique Schnapper, “Introduction: De l’État-Nation au monde transnational. Du sens d’utilité du concept de diaspora:” in Lisa Anteby-Yemini, William Berthomière, and Gabriel Sheffer, eds., Les Diasporas: 2000 ans d’histoire ( Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005), pp. 21-23.

[4] Robin Cohen is right in noting that in some cases, such as that of the Kurds and the Sikhs, the diaspora may be interested in the very creation, not of a homeland, but of a sovereign state for it. See his Global Diasporas: An Introduction (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997), p. 23.

[5] William Safran, “Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return,” Diaspora 1:1 (spring 1991), 83-99; Chaliand and Rageau, See Gérard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau, The Penguin Atlas of Diasporas (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), xvi; and the elaboration by Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas.

[6] Edward W. Said, “Reflections on Exile,” Granta 13 (1984), 166.

[7] This is not a rhetorical question: In the popular press, the refugees from New Orleans in the wake of the Katrina hurricane who settled in other states have been referred to as living in diaspora.

[8] Milton Esman, Ethnic Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994).

[9] On the notion of a “usable past,” see Anthony Smith, “The `Golden Age’ of National Renewal,” in Geoffrey Hosking and George Schöpflin, eds., Myths and Nationhood (New York: Routledge, 1997), 36-59.

[10] James Sterngold, “Shah’s Son Enlists Exiles in U.S in Push to Change Iran,” New York Times, 2 December 2001.

[11] Yossi Shain, “Diasporic Transnational Financial Flows and Identity,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 7:4 (winter 2001), 118.

[12] Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Exiles, Torn Between Countries, Want to Help Rebuild Afghanistan,” New York Times, 10 February 2002.

[13] Christophe Châtelet, “La diaspora albanaise de Suisse mobilise en faveur du Kosovo,” LM, 2-3 August 1998.

[14] Yossi Shain and Tamara Cofman Wittes, “Peace as a Three-Level Game: The Role of Diasporas in Conflict Resolution,” Paper presented at ISA Annual Convention, Chicago, 21 February 2001, 12ff.

[15] See William Safran, “The End of Normality: The Diasporization of Israel,” in Rainer Münz and Rainer Ohliger (eds.), Diasporas and Ethnic Migrants in 20th Century Europe (London: Frank Cass, 2002).

[16] There are people who are apparently perfectly rational, including university professors, who are convinced that the government of Israel imposes a “tithe” on all diaspora Jews for the benefit of that country and instructs American Jews on how to vote in national elections.

[17] It is curious that charges of “double loyalty” have been leveled frequently against the Jewish diaspora, more recently by U.S. and French political leaders, but (except on rare occasions, e.g., the Japanese-Americans during World War II) against no other.

[18] Conversely, the settlement of the Northern Ireland conflict and growing anti-Americanism in the Irish Republic have had the effect of attenuating the connection of Irish-Americans to their ancestral homeland. Feargale Cochrane, “The End of the Affair: Irish Migration, 9/11 and the Evolution of Irish-America,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 13:3 (Autumn 2007).

[19] Cohen, Global Diasporas, 57, 67-72.

[20] Roza Tsagarousianou,” Rethinking the concept of diaspora,”  Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 1: 1 (2004), 52-66.

[21] Gérard Chaliand, “Introduction,” Les minorités dans le monde à l’âge de l’Etat-nation (Paris: Fayard, 1985), 17).

[22] Richard Marienstras, “Sur la notion de diaspora,” in Gérard Chaliand, ed., Les minorités à l’âge de l’État-nation (Paris: Fayard, 1985), 215-218.

[23] Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology (New York: Doubleday, 1960).

[24] Cohen, Global Diasporas, 26.

[25] See Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog, Life is with People: The Culture of the Shtetl (New York: Schocken, 1952).

[26] Lawrence J. McCaffery, The Irish Diaspora in America (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1976), 105.

[27] See Philip Nanton, “The Caribbean Diaspora in the Promised Land,” in Anne J. Kershen, ed., London: The Promised Land? The Migrant Experience in a Capital City (Aldershot, Hants: Avebury, 1997), 115.

[28] Roger Caratini, La Force des Faibles (Paris: Larousse, 1986), 198-199.

[29] Michel Bruneau, “Peuples-monde de la longue durée: Grecs, Indiens, Chinois,” L’Espace géographique, 2001, no. 3, 193-212.

[30] Robin Cohen, “Rethinking ‘Babylon,’ Iconoclastic Conceptions to the Diaspora,” New Community 21:1 (1995), 5-18.

[31] See William Safran, “The Tenuous Link Between Hostlands and Homeland: The Progressive Dezionization of Western Diasporas,” Paper presented at International Conference on 2000 Years of Diasporas, Migrinter (CNRS), University of Poitiers, France, 14-16 February 2002.

[32] David H. Weinberg, Between Tradition and Modernity (New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 1996), 83-84.

[33] See Albert Memmi, Portrait d’un Juif. Paris: Gallimard, 1962; and Richard Marienstras, “Les Juifs de la Diaspora ou la vocation minoritaire,” Les Temps Modernes, August-September 1973, 455-491.

[34] Robert Eronn, “The Sami, Indigenous People of the North,” Current Sweden, no. 397 (March 1993), 1-8.

[35] The label used by David Laitin in Identity Formation: The Russian-Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), 1998, 29.

[36] See Hilary Pilkington, “Forced Migration in post-Soviet Russia,” in The New Migration in Europe, Khalid Koser and Helma Lutz, eds. (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press, 1998), 85-106.

[37] Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Modernism (New York: Routledge, 1998), 68-69.

[38] See Ignaci Klich, “Le scandale de la dispersion nazi dans le tiers monde,” Le Monde Diplomatique, July 1983.

[39] Tom Zeller, “Terror Diaspora,” New York Times (Weekly Review), 3 March 2002, p. 5.

[40] The term “nuclear homeland” is used to indicate that the relatively small Armenian republic is all that is left of a domain that was much larger several centuries ago.

[41] Clifford Krauss, “Just Think of It as a Little Wales With Cactuses,” New York Times, 15 May 1999.

[42] Mireille Duteil, “Francophonie: La revanche des Acadiens,” Le Point, 27 August 1999, 42-45.

[43] See William Safran, “Nationalism,” in Joshua A. Fishman, ed., Handbook of Language and Ethnic Identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 77-93.

[44] It should be noted, however, that the garb of members of certain Hassidic groups was a diasporic imitation of that of members of the Polish landed gentry.

[45] An example of a “de-Judaized” and very rationalist Jew is Raymond Aron, who rediscovered his kinship roots after the Six-Day war, and who spoke of .“un mouvement irrésistible de solidarité” and of “cette bouffée de judéité qui fit irruption dans ma conscience de Français.” See Raymond Aron, “Sûr de soi et dominateur,”, Mémoires (Paris: Julliard, 1983), 498-502.

[46] Ernest Renan, “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?” in Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1947), vol. I, 903-904.

[47] See William Safran, “State, Nation, National Identity, and Citizenship: France as a Test Case,” International Political Science Review 12: 3 (July 1991), 219-238.

[48] William J. Fishman, “Allies in the Promised Land: Reflections on the Irish and the Jews in the East End,” in Kershen, London: The Promised Land?, 44.

[49] One writer has argued that “a [n approach] based in Diaspora studies follows the path of the Jews in Germany on their road to becoming a new German Jewry. In constant flux, this trajectory is never normalized  . . . and may prevent the ‘normalization’ of Jewish German life that some hope for.” Jeffrey M. Peck, “New Perspectives in German-Jewish Studies: Toward A Diasporic and Global Perspective,” German Historical Institute, GHI Bulletin no. 35 (Fall 2004), 40.

[50] Sarah Wayland, “Diaspora Engagement in Homeland Conflict: A Case Study of Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto,” paper delivered at Immigration Seminar, Center for European Studies, Harvard University, 2 September 1998.

[51] Jonathan Friedman, “Transnationalization, Socio-Political Disorder, and Ethnification,” International Political Science Review 19: 3 (July 1998), 244.

[52] N. Jayaram, “The Study of Indian Diaspora: A MultidisciplinaryAgenda,”

[53] Alan Cowell, “The Tug of Faith Unsettles Many British Muslims,” New York Times, 24 October 2001.

[54] Kim Bendheim, “For an Emigré Writer, We are All Exiles: André Aciman Talks about Nostalgia, Memory, and Loss,” Forward, 4 August 2000.

[55] Ian Buruma, “The Romance of Exile,” The New Republic, 12 February 2001, 33.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Lynn Pan, Sons of the Yellow Emperor, London: Mandarin 1990, p. 379. Cited by Ien Ang, “Migrations of Chineseness: Ethnicity in the Postmodern World,” Mots Pluriels no. 7, 1998.

[58] In this connection, it is interesting to note that many Christians (in particular clergy) tend to refer, not to Israel (or to the Jewish homeland), but to “the Holy Land.”

[59] This conception applied in the 19th century to extreme Reform Judaism in Germany, according to which the Jewish religion in modern times had no relation to any anterior homeland. This position has been widely rejected, in part because it came to be regarded as a passageway to conversion to Christianity. The one exception today the American Council for Judaism, which has a minuscule membership.

[60] Zvi Gitelman, “The Decline of the Diaspora Jewish Nation: Boundaries, Content, and Jewish Identity,” Jewish Social Studies (New Series) 4: 2 (Winter 1998), 112-132.

[61] See Steven Vertovec, “Three Meanings of ‘Diaspora,’ Exemplified among South Asian Religions,” Diaspora 6: 2 (Winter 1997), esp. 281-289.

[62] Barry Smart, Modern Conditions, Postmodern Controversies (London: Routledge, 1991), 182.

[63] See Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism and Modernism (London: Routledge, 1998), 117, 202.

[64] She faults William Safran, Robin Cohen, and Gérard Chaliand-J.P. Rageau, inter alia, for doing this.  Michele Reis, “Theorizing Diaspora: Perspectives on ‘Classical’ and ‘Contemporary’ Diaspora,” International Migration, 42:2 (2004), 41-56.

[65] Floya Anthias, “Evaluating ‘Diaspora’: Beyond Ethnicity?” Sociology 32:2 (August 1998), 557-580.

[66] The objectives of the Association are to provide “a forum of common action to all whose Indian heritage and American commitment offer a bond of unity;” “to concern itself with the social welfare of Asian Indians who have decided to live in the United States;” “to facilitate participation in the development and progress of India” and “to facilitate involvement…in American community life.” On the development of a pan-Indian identity in the diaspora, see Gauri Bhattacharya, “The Indian Diaspora in New York City: Cultural Identities and Transnational Relations,” in W. Safran, A. K. Sahoo, and B. V. Lal, eds., Indian Diaspora in Transnational Contexts.  Special issue of Journal of Intercultural Studies. (London: Routledge, January  2008). Forthcoming..

[67] Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the national question in the New E urope (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 55-69.

[68] Italians were attached to a village or an extended family upon arrival in a foreign country. The attachment to Italy came later, after Italy had taken shape asa concept and especially after Italian-Americans visited the county; and Italy’s participation on the side of the victors in World War I. Stefano Luconi, “The Impact of Italy’s Twentieth-Century Wars on Italian-American Ethnic Identity,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 13:3 (Autumn 2007).