Convenors: Martin Sökefeld (Univ. of Bern), Erik Olsson (Univ. of Linköping)
In the fields of ethnicity, migration and postcolonial studies, “diaspora” has been acclaimed as a concept that facilitates the accommodation of hybridity, movement, permeability of borders and the fluidity of identification. The initial euphoria of “diaspora” seems to have given way to certain reservations, however. It has been argued that, contrary to theoretical intentions, the concept has served to essentialise communities by attaching them to particular places of origin, and that the meaning of diaspora has been stretched to such an extent that it has lost much of its analytical power by largely equating diaspora with migrant communities.
Against the background of such recent criticism of the concept, the workshop intends to interrogate the empirical and theoretical usefulness of the diaspora concept and the specific empirical questions it raises. Three main issues will be in focus. The first refers to the general conceptual question of how to conceptualise diaspora in a way that shuns essentialism and avoids equating it solely with migrant communities, but at the same time secures its analytical and comparative value. The second issue refers to questions that arise once we abstain from essentialising diaspora. We need to ask why and how diaspora communities are formed and how people are mobilized for diaspora. Why are people attracted to ideas of diaspora? How are different diasporas maintained and inter-generationally reproduced? How are diasporas transformed in the process of reproduction? A third issue of interest refers to the transnationality that is claimed to be a central feature in diasporic contexts. What does such transnationality signify, and how does it manifest itself in diasporic practices?
We cordially invite the submission of 1-page abstracts for theoretically focused and empirically well-grounded presentations (20 minutes + 10 minutes discussion) that address these particular questions. Please send your abstract by of April, 2006, to:
For more information on the conference see:
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