Date: Mon, 10 Jul 1995 11:29:29 -0700


July 10, 1995

Documentation on South Asian diaspora in the U. S.


From: Vaswati Rani Sinha <>

I am collecting documentation of the South Asian diaspora to the U.S., and the Philadelphia area in particular, for the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. Please note that the focus of this project is *not* academic analysis of immigration. Items of interest include autobiographical accounts, letters, photographs, organizational papers, newsletters, magazines, etc. If you have suggestions, ideas, contacts, etc., please communicate them to the following address:

At a later stage, I will be looking for individuals who might be interested in working on an advisory board for the diaspora project. Please contact me at my e-mail address, if you would be interested. Thanks.

Vaswati R. Sinha (Ms.) e-mail:

Coordinator for Instruction & Outreach voice mail: (610) 559-4036

Skillman Library

Lafayette College

Easton, PA 18042-1797


Date: Tue, 11 Jul 1995 09:44:41 -0700


July 11, 1995

Query on "diaspora" as applied to South Asians overseas


From: Josef J. Barton <>

[In response to an announcement on a Balch Institute project called "Documentation on South Asian diaspora in the U. S.," posted by Vaswati Rani Sinha, Rick McKinney <mcki0023@GOLD.TC.UMN.EDU> writes:]

I am curious about the use of the word "Diaspora" in the message [cited above]. I have recently seen references to not only a South Asian diaspora, but also to a Chinese diaspora. When I usually think of the word diaspora, I think of a forced scattering of a specific group of people. Does immigration with a specific destination, such as to the United States, constitute a diaspora? Is there such a thing as the Irish diaspora, Italian diaspora, or German diaspora? Does the word connote victimization, or some other aspect of a group identity or mentalite? Is there a specific literature about this issue? Thanks for any information on this.

Rick McKinney

Dept of History

University of Minnesota


Date: Wed, 12 Jul 1995 11:39:17 -0700


July 12, 1995

Response on query re: South Asia "Diaspora" and use of the term


From: Wing To <>

In response to Rick Mckinney's query about the meanings of diaspora:

It seems that recent scholars have broadened the understanding of the term not only as the victimization of the Jewish and African peoples for their loss of homeland. Many studies now define diaspora as "expatriate minority communities" that maintain a memory of their homeland and a collective identity.

For an attempt to define the term, see William Safran, "Diasporas in

Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return," _Diaspora_ 1:1 (1991):

83-99. James Clifford has cautioned against the recourse to an ideal type in defining the term. See his intersting article "Diasporas" in _Cultural Anthropology_ 9(3):302-338. There are now not only studies of Jewish and African diaspora, but a growing body of work on the Carribean diaspora in Britain and in the United States.

Regarding the issue of whether there are German, Italian, and other European diaspora, we can find studies of German and Dutch Jews, and attention has also been directed at the diaspora of the British.

For diasporas of Asian peoples, I am particularly fascinated by (1) the discussion of Chinese diaspora in terms of the meanings of Chineseness in Tu Wei-ming ed., _The Living Tree: The Changing Meaning of Being Chinese Today_ (Stanford University Press, 1995); (2) the discussion of the meanings of South Asian diaspora in terms of discourses of national and postcolonial identities in Peter van der Veer ed., _Nation and Migration: the Politics of Space in the South Asian Diaspora_ (University of Pennsylvannia Press, 1995); and (3) cultural analysis of "writing diaspora" from the perspective of a Hong Kong Chinese/American scholar in Rey Chow, _Writing Diaspora_: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies_ (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).

Whether we agree with certain discourses of borderlands, transculturation, and hybridity in contemporary cultural analysis or not, I think the studies of diaspora are useful to the examination of memory and identities in different historical societies.

Wing-kai To

UC Davis


Date: Wed, 12 Jul 1995 15:03:53 -0700


July 12, 1995

Further comment on the question re: use of term "diaspora" with regard

to South Asians overseas


From: Daud R. Ali <>

I am just curious as to the theoretical advantage of such a term over migrant or immigrant. It seems that the South Asian community in the United States has entered this country under very different social conditions than let us say, the Chinese community, or Africans in the slave-trade.

To use the term diaspora as a concept that makes no distinction between these histories seems to me problematic. The original use of the term referred, if I am not mistaken, to a homeland that could not be returned to. Is it worth comparing the Babylonian exile, the destruction of the temple at Jeruselam in 70 AD to the phenomenon of "brain drain" in post WWII global economies?

It seems that almost all of the reflections on diaspora focus on the issue of "culture" and cultural politics, "identity" to the point of lapsing into idealism. The question is "How did X community achieve its identity through adjudicating lost home culture and new identities given by its environs?

While these are interesting enterprises, it seems as if not enough attention is payed to the whole role (or lack thereof) that ethnic culture, diversity, etc. is playing in the emergence of a new priveleged, mobile, post-national, corporate class who are the beneficiaries of what academics have heralded as the post-colonial world.

Daud Ali



Date: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 14:04:49 -0700


July 13, 1995

Further comment re: query on South Asian "diaspora" and use of term



The term "diaspora" as far as I know originally referred not to the Jews qua exiled after the defeat of the revolt of AD 70, but to Jews living outside the land of Israel earlier. You'll find the term in any book on the New Testament. I don't have a concordance at hand but Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon cites John 7:35, which Ronald Knox translates "Will he go to the Jews who are scattered around the Gentile world, and teach the Gentiles?" I think it is found in the Epistles as well. So the term in its first acceptation has no necessary implication of a degraded condition, and refers to a nation living in part away from its base territory while retaining a separate national identity. It would be natural for instance to talk about the diasporas of various peoples in the Middle East, e.g. the Armenians or the Greeks.

Allen Thrasher

Library of Congress