Date: Mon, 10 Jul 1995 13:58:27 -0500


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 05:43:32 -0500

[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

[Andris Straumanis <a-stra@MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU> responds to Rick McKinney's

query about the term "diaspora:"]

Rick McKinney asks...

* I am curious about the use of the word "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.


I know the term has been used also to describe post-World War II Displaced Persons migration of the Baltic peoples (Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians) and other groups. I'm not aware of a specific literature, but I seem to recall encountering the term in some of Joshua Fishman's work.

Andris Straumanis

Doctoral candidate

School of Journalism and Mass Communication

University of Minnesota

Date: Tue, 11 Jul 1995 15:01:39 -0500

[Joe Barton <> writes:]

Rick McKinney's query about the past and contemporary usage of the term "diaspora" strikes me as a promising path into a fascinating region. Begin with the word:

1) Defining past and contemporary usage:

The OED notes that "diaspora" appears in the New Testament in its Greek meaning of sowing or dispersion, as in John vii.35, where it is used to refer to the scattering of the whole body of Jews among the Gentiles after the Captivity, or in James i.1 and Peter i.1, where the term describes the body of Jewish Christians outside of Palestine. This usage is reflected in the Septuagint rendering of Deuteronomy xxviii.25: (Gk) esh diaspora en pasaij basileiaij thj ghj, (Eng) thou shalt be a diaspora (or dispersion) in

all kingdoms of the earth.) Late 19th-century English usage retains this meaning of a religious minority among a majority: for example, an 1876 quotation from C. M. Davies, _Unorth. Lond._ 153 reads "[The Moravian body's] extensive diaspora work (as it is termed) of evangelizing among the National Protestant Churches on the continent." But clearly this was already a less-widespread practice, as this 1881 quotation from Wellhausen, in _Encycl. Brit._ XIII. 420/1 s.v. Israel, indicates: "As a consequence of the revolutionary changes which had taken place in the conditions of the whole East, the Jewish dispersion (diaspora) began vigorously to spread."=20 Webster's Unabridged represents contemporary usage in the following fashion, with a couple of examples drawn from descriptions of African-American experience:

di-as-po-ra \d[0xF5]^--'as-p(e-)re\

[Gk, dispersion, fr. diaspeirein to scatter, fr. dia- + speirein

to sow-more at SPROUT]

1 cap

1a: the settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside Palestine after the Babylonian exile

1b: the area outside Palestine settled by Jews

1c: the Jews living outside Palestine or modern Israel

2: MIGRATION <the great black diaspora to the cities of the North and West in the 1940s and 1950s-Newsweek>

3: people settled far from their ancestral homelands<African diaspora>

2) Surveying contemporary North American usage:

In an effort to track down the range of meanings attached to the term "diaspora," I ran a search of the Internet with the powerful Carnegie-Mellon search engine called Lycos. The search turned up 273 Web,

Gopher, and FTP sites where "diaspora" figures as an important term. The extraordinary variety of these sites, and the remarkable range of reference of the term, strikes me as a useful guide to contermporary North American usage. What follows is a mere sampling of these sites, from which it is

possible to glean something of the meanings attached to the term "diaspora:"

a) A Web home page for Orthodox Christians under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople:

Welcome to the Home-Page of "<b>DIASPORA</b> Newsletter". Here you can find Information on "<b>DIASPORA</b>," recent issues of our newsletter, Compilation of News on the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Ethnic Greek Community in Albania, the Greek-Albanian Relations, etc. "<b>DIASPORA</b> Newsletter" comes out every second Friday and is= distributed for free to interested people. Our goal is to provide accurate and up-to-date information regarding matters of concern to Hellenism worldwide, including foreign policy issues of Cyprus and Greece.

b)The Pedagogic Resource Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora:

The Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the <b>Diaspora</b> Hebrew

University <>

The Pedagogic Resource Centre for Jewish Education in the <b>Diaspora</b>

uaoaoua eaaae eadeci<br>

c) A home page in service to the Irish Diaspora:

Irish Diaspora <>

[where one can find the following remarkable address by President Mary Robinson:






2 FEBRUARY 1995]

d) Another page for the Hellenic Diaspora:

The Hellenic Page(c) <>

A Page in Progress...... March 25th was Greek Independence Day! Yasou! I am beginning to catalogue items of interest to members of the Greek Diaspora and their descendents, as well as to philhellenes around

e) A remarkable home page in the service of poets of the African Diaspora:

DIGITAL SLAM 21-22 April 1995



Digital Slam

produced by DIGITAL <b>DIASPORA</b> in collaboration with the ELECTRONIC CAFE INTERNATIONAL at the Kitchen A two day networked event between London and New York. Audiences and artists across the Atlantic meet in a live art interactive= link.

DIGITAL SLAM, the first in a series of global multimedia projects from DIGITAL <b>DIASPORA</b>, is a 'cut and mix' of contemporary black culture, taking place at the ICA, London and The Kitchen, New York simultaneously using= ISDN, video and audio signals and the World Wide Web.

Friday 21 APRIL 1995


A night of Two way poetry slams, live acts, on<br>

f) A Web page for the Diaspora of graduates of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology:

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Brief Introduction=




Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology For a more detailed link try this BUET Page This WEB page focuses on the CSE department and the BUET <b>diaspora</b>.

Brief Introduction

Buet is the premier Engineering institution in Bangladesh. Nestled in the heart of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh , every year 610 students graduate in the following disciplines:


g) The Shomburg Center's superb Web page of resources on the African Diaspora:

WWW Virtual Library: African Studies


WWW Virtual Library: African Studies

From the Shomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (NY) comes this

excellent collection of sites relevant to African people on the

continent and in the <b>diaspora</b>. The links cover a wide range of

Somalia Army Area Handbook, African art<br>

h) A Web page in support of a remarkable gathering of scholars on gay and lesbian issues in the South Asian Diaspora:

24th Annual Conference on South Asia Call for Papers: South Asian




Conference S.Asia G/L Issues

24th Annual Conference on South Asia

University of Wisconsin

Madison, WI (USA)

October 1995

Call for Papers: South Asian Gay/Lesbian Issues.

Every year, the Center for South Asia [CSA], University of Wisconsin, Madison holds a conference on South Asia in Madison, WI. It is a very very eclectic conference with a wide range of issues and viewpoints represented.

The scholarly and academic community has a vital role to play in the understanding of the issues involved in the gay/lesbian experience of South Asians-both in the <b>diaspora</b> in North America and in South= Asia itself.

i) And, one last example, a superb Web page developed among members of the Caribbean Diaspora in North American and Europe:

The Caribbean Connection (Caribbean WWW and Homepage Pages)


Caribbean People

Email Listings

* Bermudian Email List ,

Home page email directory of the Bermudian <b>Diaspora</b>.

Provided by Kelvin Mayall .

* Trinidadian Email List , 'SOC.CULTURE.CARIBBEAN' Readers Directory listing of Trinidadians. Provided by Haroon Salamat . Homepages (Barbados) * Ryan Alva Stuart . * Grattan E. Welch . (...

3) Sampling contemporary scholarly usage:

Two good measures of contemporary scholarly usage of the term are the appearance of specialized journals and newsletters, and the growing currency of the word in the titles of scholarly books. Consider first use of the term in journals and newsletters. I searched RLIN's enormous database of 880,000 serial titles for the word "diaspora," and found that it appears in 54 titles. Many of these are early 20th-century journals devoted to the Greek or Armenian or Jewish diasporas. Among these fascinating journals, I was able to identify 23 scholarly journals and newsletters published after 1960 which carry the word "diaspora" in their titles. These titles tell a fascinating story of the growing intellectual currency of the idea of diasporas: in African studies, for example, the list grows from from the _African diaspora studies newsletter_ (Howard University Press, c1984-), to the _Voices of the African diaspora : the CAAS research review_ (University of Michigan, Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, 1984-) to the recently founded Oxford University Press journal titled _Diaspora_ (1991-); or, to take another example, in this case from Asian-American studies, the Korean-American journal _Han minjung =3D Korean diaspora_ (Great Neck, NY, Kidokkyo Sahoe Y=E6on=AEguso, 1989-). Much more could be done with this= survey, of course, but I simply want to make a point about timing and breadth: most of these scholarly journals and newsletters appeared in the 1980s, and they spanned the enormous variety of North American ethnic communities. Something there was in the 1980s, then, that directed scholarly attention to the dispersion-the diaspora-of peoples in the modern world. This strikes me as a very significant intellectual development, the explanation of which has got to be more complex than merely a reflection of growing sensitivity to cultural diversity. For the idea of "diaspora" invites an understanding of a multiplicity of connections among migrating peoples: links to origins, minority status in a new land, evolving identity in every-changing environments.

The use of the term "diaspora" in the titles of scholarly books tells something of the same tale. A survey of scholarly books published in 1964, for instance, shows that not one book used "diaspora" in the title. A mere five years later, however, two important books appeared at North American presses, both of which gave "diaspora" a wide currency, the first, Ben Zion Dinur's _Israel and the Diaspora_ (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1969), among intellectuals, the second, Werner Keller, Diaspora; the post-Biblical history of the Jews, with a chapter A history of the Jews in America, by Ronald Sanders (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, [1969]), among a popular audience. Two decades passed, and an annual average of 15 books were appearing with "diaspora" in the titles. Again, at the beginning of the 1980s, some large sea-change in North American intellectual life brought a new awareness of the daunting complexity of peoples' movements through space, one that the idea of "diaspora" seemed to capture.

In order to gain a little more specificity, consider last year's harvest of books on various diasporas. So far as I can learn, 6 titles were published by North American presses: Michael L. Conniff and Thomas J. Davis, _Africans in the Americas: a history of the Black Diaspora_ (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994); Kenneth W. Goings, _Mammy and Uncle Mose:

Black collectibles and American stereotyping_ (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994); Joseph M. Murphy, _Working the spirit: ceremonies of the African diaspora_ (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994); Vladimir Shlapentokh, Munir Sendich, and Emil Payin, eds., _The New Russian diaspora : Russian minorities in the former Soviet republics_ (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1994); Robert P. Swierenga, _The forerunners: Dutch Jewry in the North American diaspora_ (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994); and Ann Lencyk Pawliczko, ed., _Ukraine and Ukrainians throughout the world: a demographic and sociological guide to the homeland and its diaspora_ (Toronto: Published for the Shevchenko Scientific Society by University of Toronto Press, 1994). The titles, I suggest, tell a story in themselves, without need for much interpretation.

Joe Barton

Northwestern University

Date: Wed, 12 Jul 1995 15:23:54 -0500


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: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 15:19:14 -0500

[Rick Perlstein <Perlstein@AOL.COM> writes:]

I spy beneath my magnifying glass the text of the Oxford English dictionary:

>From the Greek, "The Dispersion; i.e. (among the hellenistic Jews) the whole body of Jews living dispersed among the Gentiles after the captivity (John vii. 35); (among the early Jewish Christians) the body of jewish Christians outside of Palestine. (Originating in Duet. xxviii 25, you shalt be a diaspora in all kngdoms of the earth)."

The OED's first cite in English is in 1876.

Rick Perlstein