Diaspora has a varied number of definitions and meanings in the world with the Greeks believing it to be migration and colonization while Jews, Palestinians, Africans, and Americans believing it to be a collective form of oppression and foiled dreams in a host land. Axel (2002) takes the term diasporic imaginary as a component of violence in the generation of its meaning. Further, he states that the term takes the “temporality, affect and corporeality” as the main definitive (Axel, 2002). This is a difference from the widely accepted notion that place is the ultimate definitive of Diaspora. Violence in Axels’ view (2002) plays a significant role in the formation of a diasporic imagination. This study aims at expounding on diasporic imagination and its effects on the definition and thought inclination on culture, history and politics.
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Diasporic imagination mainly entails the illusions, real or imagined relation of a person or a group of people to a certain place, religion, culture, or affiliation with the aim of understanding one’s originality and ancestry (Abu-Lughod, 1989). This ties the subject to the identification and allegiance to a given group in terms of actions, attitudes, believes, and gives a degree of allegiance owing to shared ancestry. The diasporic communities who settle in non-birth locations have the notion of their home country engrained in their culture, language, and religion affecting their emotions and loyalty. The main ingrains of Diaspora are the ability of a community, group or state to preserve its integral values of religion, believes and ancestry. This assertion aids in the understanding of the historical context of African slavery and the Jewish persecution that is a good representation of Diaspora. The ability to withstand slavery, persecution and treatment, and the realization of dreams beyond the motherland gives a better understanding of this historical context. This is through the understanding of Diasporic imagination where they realized their affiliation of culture, common ancestral origin and the influence on their conviction (Curtin, 1984).
Race being, one of the main ways of identification by Diaspora communities, makes the basis for the formation of culture and understanding of politics as well as the history. The race has defined the historical perspective of communities where it acted as a discriminatory tool mainly by whites against the blacks. It was also the main motivation of the slave trade (Marx, 1996). Policies and the ruling of the state depended on the racial inclination and identity while protests and mobilization of the communities relied on racial and ancestral ties leading to the development of policies on racial grounds. The state relied on race in the formation of the citizenry and boundaries, which help in the understanding of politics and history. The reliance by the state on racial impositions led to the consolidating and legitimating of racial identity as a foundation for resistance (Marx, 1996), hence aiding in the understanding of history and culture.
The other understanding of diasporic imagination is based on the dispersion of the communities from a place of origin to areas beyond their natal place mainly in a different country or state (Brubaker, 2005). The identity of location difference by a community and psychological displacement with the ancient community serves as a basis of diasporic imagination. Dispersion mainly entails forced or traumatic displacement from an ancestral location and gives the community identification of affiliation to the original state. This aids in the understanding of the history and political affiliation of different Diaspora groups and the inclination of their participation in civil and political activities, in their countries of origin. The displacement effect and personal identity explain continued affiliation and responsibility for their ancestral ties to displacement areas. Displacement aids in the explanation of cultural adherence by varied Diaspora communities, hence explaining the maintenance of culture in different non-natal areas (Fludernik, 2003).
The other understanding of diasporic imagination is the homeland orientation, which entails having an inclination of an imagined or authentic place of origin as a source of worth, distinctiveness and allegiance (Curtin, 1984). The main ways the diasporic imagination inclines to this understanding are the maintenance of a close relation to the homeland and the formation of the notion of the homeland as a dream location. The generation of the importance of the homeland resourcefulness in ensuring homeland’s maintenance and prosperity also acts as diasporic imagination (Mishra, 2007). This serves as a means of explaining the development of close relations between Diaspora sharing equal ancestry in affiliation with the same political groupings, welfare organizations and adherence to the same cultural believes and practices (Mishra, 2007).
Boundary maintenance also forms the other basis of understanding the Diaspora imaginary, where the Diaspora community maintains a distinct identity from the new community. The lack of assimilation to the community is a feature of the Diaspora imaginary that brings close relationships with other members of the community (Brubaker, 2005). Diaspora members have a close association with each other that spans state or country boundaries and maintenance of an original identity and perseverance of culture. Boundary maintenance spans a large period, it spans more than a century, hence the maintenance of the close relations between the Diaspora communities. This translates to the creation of collective identity by the Diaspora communities in the host nation and the ability to connect with each other through communication channels and the relation to the homeland by virtue of culture, religion and belief. These make the Diaspora community have similar affiliations in trade, political relations, and religious affiliations. It also aids in the understanding of the political, cultural, and religious history of Diaspora communities in many parts of the world, hence diasporic imaginary improves history, culture, and political understanding.
In conclusion, diasporic imaginary through the exposition of the various aspects and characteristics of Diaspora communities aid in the understanding of politics, culture, and history. The maintenance of close relations to the homeland in terms of religion, believes, and culture helps in the understanding of history in relation to Diaspora communities. Diasporic imaginary also aid in the explanation of reasons for the same political affiliations of the Diaspora community and having of the same opinions on various issues in the host land. It also helps to understand the continued participation in the activities and continued effort for the improvement of the homeland by the Diaspora community. Diasporic imaginary, therefore, acts as a way to understand the culture, politics, and history better.
Abu-Lughod, J. (1989). Before European Hegemony. New York: Oxford University Press.
Axel, B. (2002). Diasporic Imaginary. Public Culture, 14(2), 411-428.
Brubaker, R. ‘The Diaspora’ diaspora. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28(1), 1-19.
Curtin, P. (1984). Cross-cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fludernik, M. (2003). Diaspora and Multiculturalism: Common Traditions and New Developments. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Marx, A. (1996). Making Race and Nation. World Politics,. 48(2), 180-208.
Mishra, V. (2007). Literature of the Indian Diaspora: Theorizing the Diasporic Imaginary. New York: Taylor and Francis.