Professor Tiffany Ruby Patterson is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University of African American. She teaches history, Diaspora and American Studies. Among many other writings she has co-authored with Robin D.G. Kelley an essay called Unfinished Migrations: Reflections on the African Diaspora and the Making of the Modern World. Robin D.G. Kelley is also scholars and a professor at the University of Southern California teaching African American history and culture.
African Diaspora in their essay Unfinished Migrations, Patterson and Kelley define it as a process and a condition. It is considered a process because it is dynamic and growing in Africa’s and the world’s history; asserting it as a condition as seen through gender hierarchies, geographical location and its identification as a global race. They also attempt to show the role the African Diaspora scholars themselves play in providing a deeper understanding of African history.
Synopsis of Unfinished Migration
Patterson and Kelly attempt to provide an overview of the resurgence of African Diaspora scholarship. It is a term that arose in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s (16). In their analysis, they explain why the history of African Americans is exceptional, especially, because many minority groups are given collective identity by not only earlier studies but also contemporary scholars.
In so doing challenge early studies on Diaspora as anthropological in context in relation to the cultural integration of Africans depending on their interaction with other communities they came into contact with during their migration. Discussions among intellectuals and scholars in the Diaspora field of study the definition of Diaspora is the mainly referred to the manifestation of dispersion.
The nature of African Diaspora is as broad as its composition from forced migration as slaves to contemporary migration in search of better economic opportunities or as political asylum. They argue to have a holistic understanding of the African American experience in the context of history and culture a comparative approach has to be undertaken.
Patterson and Kelly explain that Diasporas affect political, economical and social aspects of both the host country and their homeland. In so doing, it offers a broader perspective in the influence of the dispersion of people of African descent has had in the creation of the modern world (14).
The adoption of this clearly shows that African Diaspora is dynamic and continuous based on origin and social set up. Diaspora consciousness has been constituted both negatively and positively. For example, negatively, there has been issue like negative ethnicity, racism and alienation from their places of origin. While positive aspects include sustainable distinctive communities, historical social formation and their positive contribution to economy advancement both in the host country and their homeland.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Patterson and Kelly urge not only scholars but all people in general to extend the definition of Africa Diaspora beyond history and culture. Instead focus is put on the changing global experiences of Africans as a central contribution the making of the modern world. To this regard the authors capture a dynamic approach from other African Diaspora scholars (19).
Regardless of their location, there are several characteristic that are crucial in identifying Diasporic communities. These include; cultural and religious identities, a sense of emotional attachment to their original homeland. Sometimes oppression and alienation warrant their desire to return to their ancestral land.
In defining Diaspora, Patterson and Kelly are articulate in showing the importance of Africans unified experiences and their significance in building of the modern world as we know it. They attempt to describe African Diaspora from not only its context of origin but also, the influences from other communities they have come into contact with; therefore, are successful in redefining the term African Diaspora.
The one aspect Patterson and Kelly did not comprehensively tackle is the comparative framework with other Diasporas (13) – although they could have made comparisons to show related concepts focusing on cultural identity and race. To show the differences and similarities with other global dispersals like Asian.
The African Diaspora is unique, but a comparative framework that elaborates on relations and human experiences with other groups including indigenous people, Asians and people in their place of origin is very important. They restrict their definition because of the extensive analysis to the Atlantic world. This is a shift from a different writing called the World the Diaspora Made where Kelly identifies the influence of Black framework.
The general scope on African Diaspora studies in applying the term Diaspora to Africa should engage further discussion to reinforce a broader context. This is simply because Diaspora consciousness comes from dispersed communities and in addressing African Diaspora, Africa should be the start point.
In their argument that African American intellectuals have also recognized that the application of the term African Diaspora is not only in reference to their own experiences but also as a global perspective in global analyzing of the term. Despite their geographical locations African have effectively managed to blend their own history and cultures with those of their host countries to form a different identity from their ancestral identity; therefore, retaining their roots and managing to reform their identities.
Patterson and Kelly definition of African Diaspora shows the transcultural relation with other communities both as a condition and process. This is a dynamic and refreshing definition compared to the early scholars’ anthrolopological approach. Given a comparative framework with other immigrant without too much emphasis on the Atlantic world would make their definition holistic.
Patterson, Tiffany Ruby and Kelley Robin D.G. Unfinished Migrations: Reflections on the African Diaspora and the Making of the Modern World. African Studies Review, (2000):11-45.