ABSTRACT. Diasporas are global. The increasing mobility of people, the planetary scale of information and communications carried by the INTERNET, and the erosion of state boundaries as population enclosures have all contributed to the globalization of diasporas. No nation today can be seen as a people living just within the boundaries of a state -- all nations, instead, are global in the sense that, even though they have a homeland, many of their members live scattered around the globe. In this paper I shall discuss ten of the concepts or parameters that can help us theorize about diasporas.
Last year at the ISA conference I organized a series of panels on diasporas -- for details see: Program SarahWayland gave one of the papers, and this essay is based on data from some of this material. I coded several of the papers and identified 18 concepts touched on in many of them, as reported at: Dimensions. I used the following 18 terms to represent these ideas and they are very rough tags:
The ten terms that are starred are discussed below, and clicking on the stars will take readers to the relevant comments. The paper is in the form of a necklace of conceptual beads, though arranged in a sequence that is logical rather than alphabetical. See slide . The material is based on three of the papers presented at last year's ISA Diaspora panel.
I have used them to provide illustrative texts -- they deal with the Israeli, Cuban and Nigerian diasporas. Analysis of the other papers would provide more data, but these three are adequate for present purposes and their ready availability on the Web makes it convenient to cite them. An interesting bibliography of works relating to diasporas can be found at: Diasporas The three papers are:
Gallya Lahav and Asher Arian, Israelis in a Jewish Diaspora: the Multiple Dilemmas of a Globalized Group
Holly Ackerman, A Comparison of Features in Two Diaspora Communities: Cubans in Miami and Venezuela
Kole Ahmed Shettima, Nigerian Pro-democracy Movements in the Diaspora
This paper is divided between two main pats: Part One is concerned with defining concepts, how to decide whom to consider as diasporans and whom not to view in this light; and Part Two takes up a number of variables each of which affects, in various ways, the causes and consequences of diasporization.
1. DEFINITION: leaving home vs. staying in touch
2. CITIZENSHIP: the legal status of state and ethnonational diasporans
3. Solidarity: the extent and forms of diasporan organizations
4. Affect: why diasporans support or oppose their homelands
5. Extension how homelands try to influence, protect or punish their diasporans
6. Intervention: diasporan efforts to influence host state policies affecting their homelands
7. Concentration: the distribution of diasporan settlements within countries
8. Geography: the location of hostlands ( the states) where diasporans live
9. Genesis: how and when diasporas came into existence
10. Dynamics: external factors affecting the behavior of diasporans
CONCLUSION, BIBLIOGRAPHY AND GLOSSARY
The word, diaspora, has been used for both of these concepts, but we need to be able to distinguish between them. Actually, there is another word, dispersion, that is often used as a synonym for diaspora. Historically, they were just different versions of the same word, in two separate languages. The Jews who left or were expelled from ancient Israel and experienced persecutions in many lands always romanticized their ancient homeland and dreamed of returning. When international politics created the opportunity to re-establish Israel, many but not all Jews around the world supported the effort and returned to a land they had long imagined but never known. This example is ancient and modern, it involves one state and many other states as well. It established a model or prototype for many parallels which proliferate in the world today.
Can we use diaspora and dispersion to make this distinction? Here, I will use dispersion for the act of leaving home, and diaspora for the act of staying in touch. Dispersions link up with studies of migration and immigration. Those who leave home often settle elsewhere and, in due course, become part of the hostland where they make new homes for themselves. Thus dispersions tend to dissolve to the degree that their members eventually lose their old identities and take on new ones. Much of the literature on "diaspora" is, substantively, part of the literature on immigration and assimilation. It tells the story of those who left one home and created new homes in a different place. That's a very interesting story but not the one I want to talk about here.
Informal and Active. Instead, I want to talk about diasporas as defined above -- people who live away from a homeland but stay in contact with it. The definition given above includes two words that need to be explained: informal and active.
First, informal is a negative criterion that excludes persons having a formal status, i.e. those whose support comes from the homeland. This includes soldiers, diplomats, missionaries, business men, journalists, advisers, colonial officers, spies, etc. Their status as agents of the state or of non-state entities in their homelands easily explains why they must remain in close contact with them. Since there are many such people, this qualification excludes many non-residents from the category of diasporans. Our interest focuses, instead, on people who are not financed from their homelands. Why should they, nevertheless, maintain homeland linkages even though they support themselves from external resources? No doubt the formal/informal divide is fuzzy, and cases can easily be found where individuals combine support from their homelands with external support, or shift from one to the other, but the broad distinction seems to be important, and I shall not talk about people who live abroad with support from their homeland.
Second, active is a positive criterion that involves the maintenance of interactive
relationships. Normally there exist an indefinite number of persons who could be active but
are not. I think of them as latent diasporans because there is always a possibility that they
could become active. Thus, a third generation settler who has become fully assimilated in
h/er hostland may be stimulated by some chance encounter, conversation, reading, insult,
or other event to take an interest in h/er homeland and be drawn into activities involving
active contact. The existence of latent diasporans can be viewed as contextual, affecting
the growth or decline of diasporas. The exclusion of formal and latent residents outside a
homeland narrows the concept of a diaspora to make it more coherent and meaningful. If
it is useful to talk about the formal and latent diasporas, one can use these adjectives to
clarify the reference. I shall not refer to them again in this paper: my focus, is, therefore,
on active and informal diasporans only. That is what I have in mind when I speak of a
diaspora, or of its members, the diasporans.
Anasporas. the idea of diasporans as people who want to remain in touch with a homeland though living outside it suggests the need for an antonym. What should we call the people who remain at home, people who are not in diaspora? Interestingly, there seems to be no single word that can refer to these people although, as I shall point out, we need the concept in order to talk easily about them as they relate to diasporans. For convenience, and pending a better proposal, I shall use anaspora to refer to members of such a community. Since this is a neologism, feel free to reject or forget it, but I hope you will remember the concept it represents and will thank anyone who suggests a better term.
One reason why it is important to identify people in anaspora comes up when we ask ourselves who constitutes a nation or a state. Conventionally, only anasporans are taken into account when we talk about nations or states, yet clearly every state or nation now includes diasporans. There is virtually no country on earth all of whose members live in their ancestral homeland.
No doubt humans have been mobile since they evolved on earth, but the extent and speed of migrations has accelerated by globalization to such a degree that all nations or state are now international -- their members live in more than one country and they are able to interact more intensively with each other than ever before. As a result, neither anasporans nor diasporans can be viewed as sedentary residents of any place: instead, they are mobile people who frequently cross borders and live in more than one place. However, to say that no sharp lines can be drawn between anasporans and diasporans does not erase the value of the distinction. Most members of any nation live much of their lives at home or abroad.
When they move, they move to stay, at least for a while. But that "while" is getting shorter and shorter. More and more we see people who shuttle back and forth between their home and hostlands. I think of them as peripatetics. The airplane, cell phone, INTERNET, and passports enable them to spend today in Jerusalem, tomorrow in London, the next day in Singapore, and then back to Jerusalem -- or something like that. Some years ago I met a Palestinian at a party in suburban Washington, DC. I was about to call a taxi for the costly ride to my hotel when he volunteered to take me back. He told me that although he lived in Palo Alto, he kept a car in Washington for use during his frequent stops there -- and he had a home in Aman, but he was on his way to Bombay for a meeting. My host at the dinner party was a Palestinian serving as a Jordanian diplomat in Washington -- actually, he was my brother-in-law's brother.
Since I was born and brought up as an American in China and knew that virtually all Americans living abroad retained their citizenship and intended to return home this came as no surprise. The main difference between my childhood situation and today's world is that whereas my family could visit the U.S. only at seven-year intervals, Americans abroad can now make frequent visits "home", several times a year, or as often as they wish. The broad diasporan/anasporan distinction remains important, but the borders between them have become increasingly permeable. I believe we need to think of states or nations as globalized systems whose members may be concentrated territorially, in anaspora, but include others who are scattered, in diaspora.
Of course, the link between Americans in China and their homeland resulted, in part,
because of Chinese laws that hamper naturalization. This brings us to consideration of the
role of another concept:
2. Citizenship:the legal status of state and ethnonational diasporans. laws governing the legal status of diasporans that affect and are affected by their behavior. See slide [Slides for the other concepts are under construction]
In the post-Westphalian state system, we expect most people to be citizens of one and only one country -- of course, there are some stateless people and others who carry more than one passport -- but they are exceptional, not the norm. However, even stateless people and those with several passports may, psychologically, identify with a homeland. The point is that legal citizenship is a variable that does not necessarily determine national identity, although in most cases, one's nation and citizenship coincide. In the normal case, therefore, diasporans are citizens of one state while living in another and anasporans are citizens of the state where they live.
This still leaves out the term that can identify any community composed of a diaspora and an anaspora. I see them as a nation. Unfortunately, however, this word is likely to bring to mind a different concept. It may, for example, refer only to folks in anaspora. However, since virtually all nations in the world today include diasporans as well as anasporans, it is important to think about the whole interactive community. Could one think, for example, of Tibetans as a nation whose members live in China? Many Tibetans, including those we hear most about, live outside of China. This is an extreme case, but consider others: the most active Kosovars during the height of the recent explosion there were living outside of Kosova. The most politically active Kurds appear to be living outside of "Kurdistan," a region that is itself divided between several countries. Pathans, a community whose members now control Afghanistan, are also very active in Pakistan and other countries. As the Elian case tells us, many of the most active Cubans do not live in Cuba, and that reminds us that many Haitians do not live in Haiti.
It is interesting that the names given to nations typically embrace members living outside their homelands. Whom do you think of when you speak of Cubans, Haitians, Tibetans, or Chinese? Many Israelis today do not live in Israel, as we are told in the paper by Lahav/Arian, Israelis in a Jewish Diaspora -- this title is interesting. The Israeli diaspora is contained within a much larger Jewish diaspora. That diaspora, of course, includes some individuals who do not identify with Israel and are, therefore, not part of the Israeli nation -- although they are eligible to join if they ever want to do so. Most Israelis in dispersion choose to remain in touch with Israel -- more importantly, they are part of a globalized group, the Israeli nation, including both its anaspora and its diaspora.
Citizenship can be a defining characteristic of diasporas: state diasporans have passports
that identify them with their home state; by contrast, ethnonational diasporans cannot
have passports from their national homeland -- instead, their passports are issued by the
states which host their homelands. Insofar as ethnonationals in diaspora support the
aspirations of their nation for autonomy or independence, they must be ambivalent about
carrying passports declaring them to be citizens of a state whose jurisdiction over them
they reject. As for state diasporans, they normally support the state that issued their
passport -- but in the atypical situation, if they are revolutionary emigres, they also oppose
their own state. Of course, if they escaped home illegally, they may not carry any passport
and risk being treated as stateless persons.
States and Nations. In the preceding section defining diasporas, I paired "state and nation" without attempting to distinguish between them. In many contexts, these words are treated as synonyms. However, it is important to make a clear distinction. In another paper prepared for this conference, I wrote:
As a reaction against the equation of nations and states, members of excluded communities began to band together and claim the rights of nationhood for themselves. From this has evolved the notion of an ETHNIC NATION , i.e., a community that lacks a state but would like to have one. The members of such communities normally have some kind of ancestral myth and shared language or religion that unites them and provides a basis for political mobilization, an emerging a sense of solidarity and shared grievances against the state (or states) in which they are living. Nationhood
When diasporans are members of an ethnic nation they typically
find themselves at odds with the state whose passport identifies them with
a polity they reject. The Tibetans in exile, for example, may,
unwillingly, be Chinese citizens. Thus, the national identity of
diasporans may be quite different from their statehood identity. We often
use state and nation as synonyms -- consider that the universally accepted
name, United Nations, refers to a union of states. We even use
the phrase, nation state, to mean state, although it
could also be used to refer to a special kind of state in which national
homogeneity prevails -- Iceland may be the nearest approximation of such a
state. In practice, I think all states in the world are multi-national in
their ethnic composition -- members of more than one nation inhabit every
state. Correspondingly, diasporans may well be citizens of a state but
identify themselves with a nation that is not a state.
Two Kinds of Diasporas. Although there is a large overlap, the differences between diasporas based on states and those anchored in a nation are so important that I think we need a clear terminological distinction. We need to base it on a recognition of the globalization of both states and nations: for reasons mentioned above, I shall use state to refer not only to those who live within its territorial boundaries but to include also all its citizens regardless of where they live. No doubt we usually equate a state with its system of government and its resident citizens. However, non-residents can often vote by absentee ballots and are subject to laws and interventions by the country of which they are citizens. Should we not, therefore, broaden our understanding of state to includes all its citizens, no matter where they live (in anaspora or diaspora). Correspondingly, we need to be able to talk about diasporas whose members identify themselves as citizens of a state.
Perhaps we could use state diaspora to refer to this concept. Unfortunately, the word state is equivocal since it often refers to a sub-state (Hawaii or California, for example) rather than an independent state in our world system. No doubt members of such sub-states living elsewhere may also think of themselves as being in diaspora. We need, therefore, a distinctive term to represent citizens of an independent state living outside its boundaries.
One suggestion involves using the Latin patria as a base for terms that refer to anyone identified with an independent state in the contemporary world system. We use this form already in the terms expatriate and repatriate, referring to those who leave their home state and those who return. Expatriates are a kind of dispersion, those who live outside their home state. Some expatriates are not in diaspora, however, if they reject their home state and choose to assimilate (identify) with the hostland where they live. Others, of course, are patriots, maintaining an active relation in defense of their home state -- this is especially true for those serving the state in official positions. However, many of those who live and make their living abroad would not see themselves as patriots, although they do retain home ties and may even plan to return home.
I would propose, therefore, that we use patri- as root for a new word, patriate, to refer to persons identified with a state, regardless of where they live, whether or not they view themselves as patriots. Patriates are members of a state. Most of them are citizens, but we may broaden the meaning of this word to include everyone who has made their home in a state, whether or not they are legally citizens. When patriates leave home, they become expatriates and part of their state's dispersion. Those expatriates who choose to remain in touch with their state become part of its diaspora. Expatriates who return home are repatriates, but those who remain abroad while keeping their home-state contacts alive are still patriates -- they become diasporans, however, only to the degree that they maintain state-side contacts. We may also use patria in its original sense to refer to the state of which one is a citizen.
In addition, we need an adjective to characterize diasporas whose members are patriates. If state could provide the basis for use as an adjective, it might be appropriate and I have used "state diaspora" above, but the phrase is clumsy and imprecise insofar as it might suggest membership of a sub-state as well as a state. The existing forms, stated, stating, and stately, are inappropriate, and although statal might be proposed, I find it awkward and also ambiguous. In addition to suggesting sub-states, it might imply public rather than private status, as in parastatal, an existing but unfamiliar term.
A more convenient and less ambiguous term can be based on patriate: it suggests patrial to
refer to any property of an independent state -- provided it is always pronounced to rhyme
with pay, not pat. If we could accept this term, then we could clearly distinguish between
patrial diasporas and national diasporas. The former would comprise citizens of a state
living abroad, and the latter, members of an ethnic nation living outside their homeland --
they could be living inside or outside the state in which their homeland is enclaved. If they
carry passports, they would belong to the state of which they are patriates, rather than the
nation which may command their support.
National and Patrial Diasporas. Having the notion of a patrial diaspora makes it easy to talk, by contrast, of national diasporas. These are members of an ethnic nation defined by its claims for statehood -- but the lack of international recognition. In short, nationals are not citizens -- they do not have passports, but they have a sense of identity based on a homeland and, typically, historical myths which glorify the achievements of their ancestors. The criterion of citizenship enables us to distinguish between states (patrias) with citizens, and nations whose members lack citizenship: that is to say, although they may be citizens of a state, the nation of which they are members lacks the international recognition that would authorize them to issue passports. Both nations and states are global entities in the sense that their members consist of anasporans and diasporans, those living at home and those living elsewhere. Increasingly, of course, globalization means greater mobility and hence the boundaries between anaspora and diaspora are eroding. The vast majority of patriates of any state (patria) are anasporans, but some live in diaspora. Among these patriates, some are nationals who identify with an ethnic nation that seeks autonomy or independence -- although they usually have citizenship in the state where their nation is enclaved and carry its passports when they travel abroad, they may protest and wish they could carry a document identifying them with their own nation instead.
I have used homeland to refer to the place from which diasporans or their ancestors have come and hostland for the place where they are living. The national/patrial distinction enables us to distinguish between a patrial homeland and a national homeland. The former is the state (patria) from which diasporans have migrated, and the latter, of course, is the area of concentration for nationals within or belonging to a state. To the degree that members of a nation are dispersed or have been relocated within a state, national homelands takes on a mythic character. The concept is even more curious in cleft nations where a diaspora has been separated by boundary changes from its original patria. Diasporans in such cases may be living in ancestral homelands -- they never migrated.
This makes the notion of a "national homeland" more amorphous or fluid than that of a patrial homeland. However, even the concept of a patrial homeland can be confused: for example, when Chinese in American who came from Taiwan speak of their "homeland," should they be thinking of the island or a mainland "home." Overseas Chinese in Thailand may never have lived in China, and they may have two homelands, or select one on the basis of ideological preferences. The notion of a hostland is also fuzzy. It could just be wherever someone in diaspora happens to be staying, or it could be a country in which one has lived for a long time -- or even where one was born of immigrant parents. Perhaps we should just think of both homeland and hostland as imaginaries created in the minds of diasporans.
Of course, there is often a good deal of ambivalence in these identities. The boundaries between homelands and hostlands, and between national and patrial diasporas can shift and erode. In Shettima's paper on Nigeria we find that political changes inside Nigeria have led to shifts in identity among diasporans, sometimes promoting a sense of patrial identity with the state, and at other times strengthening national (tribal) identities. He writes:
The agenda of the nationalists was primarily in constructing a Nigerian nation out of its
diverse community. But, most of the students in North America and Europe who participated
in the decolonization struggle were mainly from the southern region of Nigeria. The second
wave had a very clear ethno-national dimension as one of part of the country wanted to secede
from the rest on the accusations that the northern region had dominated the federation. There
are claims and counter claims about the position of the southwest and especially on whether
they were to join the Igbos. Hence, the people who vigorously supported the cause of Biafra
were mainly Igbos. Indigenes of both the southwest and the north were either indifferent or
vigorously opposed the Biafrans. Shettima
To put it differently, Nigerians in America were ambivalent, sometimes supporting patrial
causes in which democracy was the code-word, whereas at other times identifying with a
regional cause that favored an ethnic nation. These changes reflected political upheavals in
Nigeria and the migration of Nigerians who won or lost in these battles -- leaders in
diaspora may be emigres who have just arrived after a coup or election at home has
This example also illustrates the point that the legal status of those in diaspora may differ
from their ethnonational status. A Kurd who is a citizen of Turkey may identify herself as
a Kurd rather than as a Turk, just as a Tibetan in exile may identify as a Tibetan, whether
or not carrying a Chinese passport. A Kosovar in diaspora might be a Serbian patrial and
also an Albanian ethnonational. Kurds living in Europe may be concurrently Turkish
citizens (patriates) but Kurdish nationals. In each of these identities, different motives and
behaviors could be expected, and they could have implications for international relations,
at various levels. While Eritrea was part of Ethiopia, an Eritrean abroad could
simultaneously identify with the state or a nation -- since Eritrea has won its
independence, of course, Eritreans changed their status from ethnonational to patrial.
Thus these status distinctions are temporal and can easily change over time -- individuals
can also belong, simultaneously, to different patrial and national diasporas, perhaps have
different homelands and hostlands.
The three papers analyzed here focus
on state diasporas, and they illustrate the main concepts I have in mind.
However, national diasporas are discussed in other papers for the panel.
Howard Adelman's paper focuses on the Jewish national diaspora whereas the
Lahav/Arian paper on the Israeli diaspora focuses on the related patrial
diaspora. Of course, the two overlap in a fascinating way. Harold
Orbach's discussion of American Indians outside their reservations deals
with a complex of multi-national diasporas. The paper by Josephine
Squires focuses on the Irish national diaspora. Madeleine Demetriou's
paper on Cypriots mixes the two categories since it deals simultaneously
with the Cypriot patrial diaspora and the closely linked GreekCypriot
national diaspora. The Russian picture is even more complex since
Russians in diaspora may ambivalently identify with the new Russian state,
or just with their own national community as it has dispersed around the
world, and especially throughout the former Soviet Union. I believe there
are also many Russians in dispersion who are not active in any
Jus Sanguinis vs. Jus Soli.
The strength of diaspora connections hinges in part on how people
(patriates) are treated in their hostlands. One factor among many is the
laws that determine citizenship of a country: whether or not they can
become naturalized citizens or must remain aliens indefinitely. A broad
legal distinction helps to explain this difference. Two different
criteria apply to the acquisition of citizenship by birth: the older
criterion makes citizenship contingent on that of one's parents and is
referred to as jus sanguinis; the newer criterion, called jus
soli, entitles anyone born in a country to be classed as a citizen.
In general, jus sanguinis prevails in all Old World countries of
the Afro-Eurasian continent, whereas jus soli applies in the New
World, especially the Americas. These are not mutually exclusive
principles, however, and individuals can easily be born with more than one
citizenship as a result. Of course, one may also acquire citizenship
after birth, by naturalization, but it is much easier to do that in
countries where jus soli prevails than in those under jus
sanguinis. Citizenship, as noted above, is a legality that affects
membership of a state, and hence it applies to patrial diasporas but not
national diasporas. Consequently, even people who do become naturalized
citizens of a country often retain their identity as national diasporans
-- it may be easier to transform one's patrial than one's ethnic identity.
Moreover, carrying more than one passport may be very convenient, leading
naturalized citizens to retain citizenship in their own patrias, if they
This point reminds me of a former colleague who came from Rumania but had become a
French citizen and then moved to America where he became fully integrated but not
naturalized. His research interest in Eastern Europe reinforced his Rumanian origins but
his alienation from that country's politics kept him from membership of its national
diaspora. However, although only a naturalized Frenchman, his Francophile sentiments
made him a member of both the national and patrial diasporas of France as reflected in his
refusal to take advantage of the opportunity to become a U. S. citizen. By contrast, his
wife, who was a native-born French citizen, had become a naturalized American.
Political ideology and preferences
are also affected by the choice of hostlands. As we are told by Holly
Ackerman in her paper, A Comparison of Features in Two Diaspora
Communities: Cubans in Miami and Venezuela, Ackerman a
significant difference between the two communities was based on their
hostland environment. Whereas Cubans in Miami seek to overthrow the
Castro regime, Cubans in Venezuela tend to see themselves as expatriates
who accept Castro and easily travel back and forth between their homeland
and hostland. This difference can be explained mainly by the contrasting
attitudes of the American and Venezuelan regime toward Castro's Cuba, but
these differences also reflect the attitudes carried with them by the
migrants -- those who came to Miami were more anti-Castro than those who
went to Caracas. Ackerman's paper explains these differences in detail:
here I merely want to highlight the conceptual distinction. The Cuban
diaspora patrial, not ethnonational, so only the differences in attitude
toward the regime are important. In general, however, both patrial and
national diasporas are influenced by the legal, political, economic,
social and cultural environment of the hostlands where they
After having said so much about national and patrial diasporas, I must add that there are also diasporas that do not fit either of these categories. They may, for example, identify with a locality rather than a nation or state. Many Chinese Americans, for example, identify with the city of Canton, or even one of its suburbs, Tai Shan (Toy San). The Chinese community in Thailand can be subdivided by regional and linguistic distinctions that are salient in their lives. In fact, as geographers point out, patterns of migration often hinge on localities from which a pioneer has come who, subsequently, arranges for relatives and neighbors to follow. They have no interest in either a state or a nation.
Among Overseas Chinese in the Philippines, clan-name associations are significant and bring together members in China and abroad who share a common surname. Sometimes they belong to a secret society whose activities have international significance -- such as the notorious Mafiosi, for example. We might use parochial as a generic term to characterize a variety of diasporas whose home base is neither a state nor a nation. Although research on different kinds of parochial diasporas is surely interesting, I shall say no more about them in this paper.
SOLIDARITY: the extent to which members of a diaspora form
organizations to advance their interests.
When we think of diasporas, we normally have communities in mind, but
members of any community may choose to organize themselves for a variety
of purposes. Even the word, community, is equivocal, since it
may refer only to people sharing something, like a place of residence, or
it may point to shared interests and hence some degree of solidarity.
The word group, as in ethnic group, is even more
ambiguous, sometimes referring to a mere set of individuals with some
shared property, but often also to a well established organization. I
shall use solidarity to refer to a variable, the degree to which
members of a community work together. Thus any diaspora may be merely a
loose aggregate of individuals or, by contrast, a tightly structured
organizations with a well defined membership. Our definition can be found
In practice, most ethnic communities host a substantial number of ethnic organizations --
their purposes range from religious, sports, business, artistic, and political goals to any
mixture of them. A particularly important kind of organization found in many countries
links ethnic and functionally specific criteria -- a Chinese Chamber of Commerce in
Thailand, for example, acts not only to support the business interests of its members, but
also to serve as a political mediator between Chinese and the Thai government, and also to
provide homeland links to China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and overseas Chinese in
other countries as well. It has social, educational, religious and other functions as well.
Thus it is an element in the global Chinese diaspora.
However, we can distinguish members of the Chamber of Commerce from non-members --
the Chinese community, in other words, is much larger than this Chinese organization. Of
course, there are also many other Chinese organizations, in Thailand and in many other
countries. Moreover, Chinese in Thailand, although clearly part of the Chinese diaspora,
may or may not choose to affiliate with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. I have used
the blend term, clect, to refer to this kind of organization -- see
blend for some details --
to find "clect." I mention it here because I think many of the ethnic organizations found in
diaspora communities are better understood as clects than by reference to the other terms
available when we talk about different kinds of organizations. All ethnic gangs or
syndicates are clects, but so are very benign associations.
The formation of clects is
determined less by the preferences of their members than by their
socio-political environments where prejudice and insecurity compel
minority groups to band together for diverse and often subvisible
purposes. Whereas multi-functional governments are mandated in states,
unrecognized ethnic nations are handicapped when they try to create such
structures for themselves. Patrias view efforts to create any overhead
multi-purpose organizations for a nation as a threat, forcing nationalists
to resort to facade organizations that look like commercial, educational,
religious, or sportive associations -- or even "tribes." Paradoxically,
indeed, nations are often permitted to maintain tribal organizations --
states may view them as archaic and non-threatening remnants of a
traditional culture. Not surprisingly, nations sometimes use the
formalisms of a tribe to cover modern types of political and social
organization. Some of these groups have home pages on the INTERNET -- an
impressionistic list of them can be found in Note #1,
below. One of the most prolific sets of such networks supports
the global Jewish diaspora.
Shettima writes about the wide range
of Nigerian organizations and their efforts to work together: "There are
no less than 100 [Nigerian] pro-democracy movements in the United
States, 5 in Canada, and 50 in the United Kingdom." Shettima ". Later, he writes: .efforts have been made to form
one umbrella organization. This led to the convening of the World Congress
of Free Nigerians in Washington and a subsequent one in London. These
efforts did not materialize into a single association.... despite these
efforts to form umbrella organizations, there are many Nigerian
pro-democracy organizations that are not part of any of the major
Shettima This Nigerian example illustrates a familiar pattern -- the
existence of solidarity among members of a diaspora may not easily
translate into the creation of a single organized group to represent their
interests -- more commonly, there are many organized groups in any
diaspora, and they often compete and conflict with each other.
4. AFFECT: the degree to which diasporans support or oppose
their homeland, or view it with neutrality. Some diasporans strive
to overthrow, strengthen, or accept the status quo in their homeland.
These attitudes sometimes are directed toward homeland states. However,
almost by definition, national diasporas support efforts to secure
autonomy or independence for the nations with which they are linked.
Migrating members of an ethnic
community who do not support such efforts do not constitute part of a
national diaspora. Usually, they belong to parochial diasporas,
maintaining contacts with families, villages, or gangs, but not becoming
involved in national struggles. Sometimes, of course, they may also
accept links with their patrias, as illustrated by Nigerians involved in
the democracy struggles described by Shettima. As this example also
shows, however, individuals may ambivalently identify themselves at
several levels, and move between levels, at different times and occasions.
Anti-Regime Patrial Diasporans. The attention of scholars and journalists tends to focus, however, not on routine activities of people minding their own business, sending money home or importing cultural good. We are much more interested in diasporic activism that involves conflict. For patrial (state) diasporans, this may involve support for revolutionary or counter-revolutionary movements against the regime in the patrias from which they have fled. We could use emigre or refugee to characterize those who have fled their homeland in protest against a regime -- they often organize overseas to seek its overthrow. The Cuban case is well described in the Ackerman paper Ackerman
It illustrates a related point, however -- attitudes in a diaspora may vary contextually. In the Cuban case, Cubans in Venezuela were neutral if not friendly toward the Castro regime, whereas those in the U.S., especially in Miami, were hostile, seeking the overthrow of the regime. This also means, of course, that the activism of Miami Cubans has attract much more attention than the activities of Venezuelan Cubans -- except, of course, that they were newsworthy to the degree that they supported revolutionary movements in Venezuela!
Temporal differences should also be expected -- attitudes of support - indifference - hostility can fluctuate with various kinds of historical change. An example in the Israeli case is mentioned in the Lahav/Arian paper: "as Israel has experienced rapid economic and military strength, its traditional economic support from the Jewish diaspora, particularly in the United States has declined." Lahav/Arian
By contrast, in the Nigerian case, "...the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 of his Ogoni colleagues in the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People  ...led to worldwide condemnation of the military junta and suspension of the country from the Commonwealth in 1995... [thus] The judicial-murder of Ken Saro Wiwa energized the pro-democracy activists [in diaspora]. Shettima
A classic long-term example is provided by the Russian case involving emigre Russians opposing the Soviet Union. Many revolutionary movements against imperial rule were spearheaded by emigre students and activists living abroad: a familiar case involves China and the struggle led by Sun Yat Sen and others, first to overthrow Manchu rule, and later to support national unification against the war lords spawned by the collapse of the Ching dynasty. Similarly, the collapse of royal absolutism in Thailand was planned by Thais who had lived abroad; and the revolution against royal rule in Iran was fomented by Iranians outside of Iran.
Ethnonational Activism. More often today we find ethnonational movements led by emigres who support autonomy or independence for the nations with which they identify. They are not seeking to transform a state but rather to emancipate a national community living within a state. If they succeed, they often plan to return home and expect to play leading roles in the new state. A classic example, of course, is that of the Jewish diaspora in which Zionist activism emerged and spearheaded the international efforts that led to the creation of Israel in which, of course, many "repatriates" were able to play leading roles.
As this case illustrates, successful nationalist movements may result in the creation of a state, thereby transforming national diasporas into patrial diasporas. The classic case may be that of the Greeks who helped to free Greece from the Ottoman Empire. The best known modern example is that of India whose main independence leaders lived and studied abroad. Other good cases of diaspora-led independence movements can be found in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Ghana, and many other new states. In all such cases, the nations inhabited exclaves, territories outside the head-state boundaries of an empire.
Following the collapse of imperial rule, and the creation of many new states, many new national diasporas have emerged. They seek to liberate enclave nations located within boundaries of these states. Examples include movements to supporting Biafran in Nigeria, Sikhs in India, Tamils in Sri Lanka, Kurds in Turkey, indigenous people (Chiapas) in Mexico andTibetans seeking independence for their co-nationals in China.. Other cases are more complex and defy simple categorization, but they include Palestinians rallying to emancipate Palestinians from Israeli rule, Eritrean seeking independence for Eritrea, Kosovars seeking independence or autonomy within Serbia, and most of the liberation movements in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
Although these activist diaspora movements have captured most of our attention, there are many other diasporan activities that are largely ignored. These include religious movements that reflect or influence counterpart movements in a homeland. Religious traditionalists sometimes flee in response to changes that undermine support for their faith: examples include the Huguenots in France, Old Believers in Russia, the Amish in Germany, the Armenians in Turkey, the Bahai in Iran , and the Tibetan Buddhists in China, and Jews in many countries. When persecution of their adherents in the homeland is sufficiently severe, the religious community may survive only in diaspora where they may nourish nostalgia for a return. Rarely, as in the Jewish case, has such a nostalgia been implemented by the re-establishment of a homeland. Some religious emigres ask only to be left alone and they carefully diasporan activism, but others become politically active. The Armenian campaign for creation of an autonomous homeland in Turkey is an example. The appeal from post-Soviet Armenia for Armenians in diaspora to view that country as their homeland seems to be dismissed by most Anatolian Armenians.
Parochial diasporan activity usually lack much political significance. In democracies,
immigrant communities whose members assimilate in their hostlands may also celebrate
the cultural practices of their homelands, and seek to preserve its language, arts, and
sporting events through holidays, museums, schools, newspapers, and other permissible
activities. They may also re-visit their homelands and seek to maintain ties with relatives,
associations and other channels. Sometimes they perpetuate links by sending remittances
to their relatives, and sponsoring new migrants. These activities are more prevalent in
parochial than in either national or patrial diasporas -- although inherently interesting, I
shall say no more about them here.
5. EXTENSION: policies of homeland states or non-governmental organizations designed to influence, protect or punish their diaspora communities. No doubt some states are indifferent to migrants who have left their boundaries, but more commonly we may assume that they have policies, both positive and negative, related to matters affecting their diasporas. They may be ambivalent as expressed in Israel's negative feelings about its emigrants linked, however, with efforts to recruit them as repatriates. The extension of a state's policies toward diasporans may be viewed as a reciprocal of diasporan efforts to intervene for or against their homelands.
The emphasis in most diasporan studies and in the remarks offered above has been on the role played by diasporans as actors affecting the course of events in their homelands. However, there is a reverse side to this coin: both patrial and national homelands take an interest in their diasporas. They may try to exploit them as a resource or protect them when they need help. The holistic understanding of diasporas as part of a larger whole which includes their anasporas readily brings such questions to our attention.
Sometimes a state seeks to influence diasporans directly, as did Israel according to Lahav and Arian who write about: "intensified drives of the Israeli government, in conjunction with Jewish organizations to attract young American Jews to Israel, as well as sponsoring immersion programs to tap into second-generation Israelis abroad." Lahav/Arian This effort to attract immigrants from the diaspora may be exceptional. A more familiar policy is illustrated by the Nigeria's efforts to secure support from diasporans for its own domestic concerns: Shettima writes: "...business communities and the military junta in Nigeria are also actively courting governments, legislators, policy makers, churches, civil society activists and the Nigerian diaspora." Shettima
States often try to use their diasporans to support some external policy goal, as illustrated by the Cuban efforts to promote revolution in Venezuala. According to Ackerman, "... the Cuban regime actively interfered in the Venezuelan struggle by sending arms, military advisors, and training Venezuelan guerrillas." Ackerman A home page for the Serbian effort to keep in touch with expatriates and recruit them as supporters can be found at page .
Lack of time and space compels me to limit comments on the
remaining diaspora concepts identified by the papers given at the
Washington panel. Each will be defined with minimal comments:
INTERVENTION: efforts by diasporan organizations to influence
the policies of host states, international bodies or other agencies as
they affect conditions in their homelands. Students of international
relations may have a special interest in the role of diasporas as a factor
in the conduct of foreign policy. One can think of Cuban Americans, for
example, as a major force in the formation of U.S. policy toward Cuba, or
of Jewish diasporans as an influence on policies affecting Israel. Irish
Americans have worked energetically to influence U.S. policy affecting
Northern Ireland, and Chinese Americans have been involved in shaping
policies toward both China and Taiwan. One could multiply the number of
cases. Close analysis may reveal that these diaspora communities have had
less real influence than they hoped for, and their influence in different
countries surely also varies a great deal. However, intervention by
diasporas is a worthy topic for inquiry in the I.S.A. context.
7. CONCENTRATION: the geographical distribution of diasporans. At one extreme, diasporans may be concentrated in one place, as are most Cubans in the U.S. who have settled in Miami. The Cubans in Venezuala are less concentrated, having settled more sparsely around the country. Influence and leadership in diasporas is surely linked with concentration of settlements -- thus the more diasporans locate in or near one place, the more influence they can have by comparison with those who live in more scattered locations. Of course, it will also be easier for them to maintain their own schools, churches, news facilities, and contact with their homeland. By contrast, diasporans who live dispersed in many locations and small numbers are more easily assimilated to their hostland cultures. Although this may hamper the maintenance of diasporan links, this is not a necessary result. Thus while degrees of concentration of diasporans will be a factor affecting their homeland linkages, it does not determine them.
As I write, a small boy, Elian Gonzalez, is the focus of a Cuban-American controversy
based on the demands of the Cuban diaspora Miami. The U.S. government and many
Americans want to have the boy returned to his father in Cuba, but the diasporans in
Miami want him to remain with relatives in the U.S. and they are well organized for this
goal. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, American courts, and massive protests
in Cuba have orchestrated a frenzy of media outrage. This incident may relate to Catarina
Kinnvall's theme of "globalizing identity," or Sarah Wayland's "ethnicity and politics"?
8. GEOGRAPHY: the location of hostlands ( the states) where diasporans live. In many cases, diasporans are widely scattered in many countries: Tibetans, Chinese, Greeks, French and Americans may illustrate this norm, but in some cases, diasporans have appeared only in a few countries. Normally, the distribution of diasporans is skewed so that most of them appear in a few countries, with just a sprinkling elsewhere. Ackerman tells us that most Cubans in diaspora live in the U.S., a smaller number live in Venezuela, and there are only a few in other countries.
National diasporans may live in the same country where their homelands are located, as well as in foreign ountries. Thus Russians, in the Soviet Union, were widely scattered throughout all the republics. Since the collapse of the Union, of course, the same Russian communities now find themselves living in different countries. Politically, intra-state diasporas create problems for domestic politics, but when they live in different countries, they become a factor in international relations. This classificatory change may not have great substantive significance, but it could certainly lead to different foreign policies and reactions in the world system. . For ISA members, it might mean the same diaspora gets to be re-classified as subject of "comparative" rather than "international" analysis -- a good example of the essential triviality of this distinction.
Where migrants live affects their lives in ways that distinguish segments of a diaspora living in one place from those living elsewhere. Great inter-regional differences often characterize members of the same diaspora. The paper by Ackerman provides a vivid example, showing how Cubans in Venezuela differ from those living in the United States. She reports that "Although Venezuela is the largest Cuban diaspora community outside of the U.S., its total population is over thirty times smaller than that in the U.S. [However] the small numerical size of the Cuban community in Venezuela does not reflect its relative importance within the diaspora. On several counts, the Venezuelan community has significance disproportionate to its size." Ackerman
Thus, segments of a diaspora living in one country may differ from others, not only in size but also in influence, attitude, and other respects. We need a holistic perspective both to understand how diasporas fit within states and nations, but also how their segments in different places react to or reflect their environments, and behave differently in ways that affect their homeland. These considerations lead me to suggest that we ought not speak of the diasporans in any one country as "the diaspora" -- a state or nation's diaspora includes all of its members living in diaspora, anywhere in the world. Unless context clearly shows that one is speaking only of the segment of a diaspora located in one country, one should always use a modifier, such as the "Cuban Diaspora in America," or the "Cuban-American Diaspora." However, it is important to distinguish diasporans from non-diasporans in dispersion -- e.g., "Cuban-Americans not involved in the Cuban diaspora."
Although this might be confusing, one possibility would be to distinguish "American-Cubans" in diaspora from "Cuban-Americans" who are not in diaspora. Of course, such
boundaries may be quite translucent and individuals can easily shift from one category to
9. GENESIS: how and when diasporas come into existence Most diasporas are created by migrations, but boundary changes can also put diasporans outside their homeland even though they never left home. Most research on diasporas focuses on mobile communities created by migration, but cleft diasporas caused by boundary changes are also quite numerous and need to be studied -- they have been ignored in the literature on diasporas but, in the context of this paper, they constitute segments of states and nations as much as people who have migrated away from a homeland. Of course, the two categories overlap, as when members of a cleft diaspora experience persecution and seek refuge elsewhere, sometimes in their homelands but often also by joining mobile diasporans. We need to put these two types of diaspora into a context that links them with their homeland communities.
The reasons for diaspora formation also have important consequences. Thus, migrants who leave a country voluntarily or are compelled to leave by political opponents can be expected to feel very differently about the regime they left. This will not only affect their propensity to stay in touch as diasporans but also influence their attitudes and policies toward the homeland.
A useful distinction can be made between diasporans who have lived in their homeland and
those who have not. The former are migrants who have left home, but the latter include
persons who have never lived in their homelands, even though they may have visited it --
and, of course, long-term residents of cleft diasporas. . Although many descendants of
migrants retain ties with their homeland, others do not and prefer assimilation in their
hostlands. Diasporas may also include persons who have no genetic links with a homeland,
but have some reason to identify it -- they may, for examplem marry a diasporan, enjoy a
wonderful visit, or just read and dream about a place they come to love. An example might
be Jews in diaspora who, for various reasons, identify with Israel, as discussed in the
Adelman paper. Another example could be those who want to become Americans -for
quite different reasons --even though they are not able to immigrate.
A terminological distinction between endo-diasporans who have left their homeland, and
ecto-diasporans who have never lived there might help us talk about this distinction. Ecto-
can mean outside of, and is preferable to exo- which often means former and could,
therefore, be ambiguous. An important distinction exists in the Jewish dispersion between
members of Israel's endo-diasporan community composed of emigres, and its ecto-diasporan communities composed of Jews living anywhere who might decide to identify
with Israel or strive to go and live there. .Some, indeed, take advantage of their status as
"citizens" to visit Israel in order to vote in its elections.
As the Lahav/Arian paper makes clear, this is a distinction that makes a difference. The Israeli case is exceptioal, but one can think of some parallels. Consider, for example, the American case. U.S. citizens living abroad clearly constitute an endo-diasporan community. However, there are many non-citizens who seek to immigrate to the U.S. and become citizens -- while awaiting an opportunity, they may visit America, study its history and culture, and interact with Americans living abroad. Some are former students or have worked in America as visitors. Some may even claim citizenship by birth, having American fathers and local mothers. This happens often in countries like Vietnam, Korea and Germany where many Americans, posted in the armed services, have local wives or mistresses.
The chronology of diaspora formation is also important and often creates overlapping communities with different perspectives and goals. Genetic analysis may distinguish between migrants who travel in large numbers as a big wave, or in small groups, as individuals or families, trickling along. Generational and gender differences may also be important: whether migrants are young or old, married or single. For example, migrating single men are more likely to marry local women and become assimilated in their hostlands, whereas married couples with children are more likely to retain their homeland connections. The motives and status of migrants are also important: whether they move as refugees or voluntarily, and whether they are impoverished and unskilled, skilled professionals or affluent entrepreneurs -- and, of course there are many possible mixtures between such extremes.
The genesis of cleft diasporans is structurally different since, by definition, they are not migrants. They were separated from their homeland by boundary changes. The most important genetic variable may be how well or badly they are treated by their neighbors. Also, of course, they are affected by the political forces that led to boundary change, what treaty rights they may have, whether they live near or far from the border that surrounds their homeland, and what policies their homeland and hostland states or agencies may follow when dealing with them.
Genesis may also refer to the chronology of diasporization. At one extreme there are
refugees living in temporary camps. If they are returned soon to their homelands, we
might not even think of them as diasporans -- the Kosovars in neighboring Macedonia and
Albania during the recent crisis comes to mind. However, Palestinian refugees uprooted
following the establishment of Israel became virtually permanent residents of a country not
their own. A more complex situation has arisen for Palestinians uprooted from their home
but living under Israel control, as on the West Bank. Many of them, of course, support the
efforts of the PLO to create a state -- if successful, they might be "repatriated" without
ever leaving home. The Palestinians in diaspora constitute one of the most highly
organized diaspora communities and their case is particularly interesting and complex. Its
genesis is virtually unique and explains some of its most salient characteristics and
10. DYNAMICS: factors that affect the behavior of diasporans. Diasporas are not static; their membership expands or contracts, not just for demographic reasons but also because individuals decide to identify with or withdraw from their homelands for changing reasons. We may therefore speak of diasporization to refer to the growth of diasporas -- sometimes because of new arrivals but often also by the mobilization of recruits among hostland residents -- and, by contrast, of de-diasporization for the decline of such communities. The persecution of Jews, for example, was followed by growth of the Jewish diaspora, but the establishment of Israel has been followed by some de-diasporization. As the number of Israelis choosing to emigrate has increased, the Israeli diaspora has grown with complicating effects on the strength and orientations of the Jewish diaspora. The Lahav/Arian paper provides some fascinating details: Lahav/Arian.
Similarly, the Nigerian diaspora has expanded and contracted, and changed the focus of its attention, in response to changes in Nigeria: Shettima. The same may be said for the Cuban diaspora: Ackerman.
In short, one should never think of any diaspora as a static entity or community. Its size,
distribution, attitudes, organization, and relations with the homeland are constantly in flux
and need to be understood as a living variable.
Other Parameters. In the analysis I made on the basis of papers presented at last year's Diaspora panel, I was able to identity at least nine other important variables or parameters which I referred to under the headings of: externalities, homeland, identity, initiatives, intensity, localization, socio-economic status, and temporality. Anyone interested in learning more about them can find the list with links to the relevant texts at: Dimensions
It seems unnecessary to say more here. Let me just close by
claiming that these and other variables provide a framework for making
comparisons between different states and nations, including their
diasporas. Perhaps the most important point to make is that states need
to be understood as global unbounded entities with a bounded umbra at home
(the anasporans) and an unbounded penumbra abroad (the diasporans).
Similarly, ethnonational communities that aspire to become states
typically have a home territory within a state (though sometimes in
several states) and they also have a more or less large and active
diaspora. They can be identified by the fact that they lack passports
that give international recognition to their nations -- instead, they must
travel with passports issued by the states in which their ethnonations are
The theory of international relations cannot view states as bounded entities interacting like
billiard balls with other states. Rather, every state's relations with other states are
complicated both at home and abroad by diasporas. At home they have to take into
account the diasporans of foreign states and nations who are living within their borders.
Their foreign policies are affect by the need to consider the role and problems of their own
members (citizens and nationals) living outside their borders.
Similarly, comparative politics needs to take diasporas into account. No state or nation exists within hermetic boundaries -- in fact, all boundaries are permeable and diasporas exist on both sides. Members of every state and nation live outside the boundaries of their homelands, and members of other states and nations live within their borders. Globalization has, of course, make inter-state relations increasingly complex because of the growing role of non-state organizations, corporations, associations, and the like. In addition, it has also increased the size, fluidity and activism of diasporas flowing in all directions at once. If we translate our focus on "international relations" into a study of the world system or global affairs, we can more easily grasp the changing and increasing role of diasporas in this system.
Here is a rather mixed bag of sites for diasporas. They are
maintained by governments, embassies, commercial firms, universities and
museums -- a few are sponsored by organized diaspora communities around
the world. An alphabetized list follows. They can also be found at the
regional sites linked with information about their homelands. See: Glocalization .
Africa: diaspora: Links
Armenian diaspora: page
Asian (South) diaspora: list
Ethiopia: Diaspora Guide page
Filipino Diaspora page
Irish diaspora studies: page
Korean Diaspora: page
Palestinian Diaspora: page
Romanian Diaspora: page 1
and page 2
Russian related communities: page
Serbian Network: page
Ukrainian Organizations: page
New concepts and terms introduced in this paper (to be added
later) See linked pages:  Globalization
papers || Globalization web sites
|| Ethnicity papers
|| Ethnicity web sites 
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See also Concepts based on Panel Papers, 1998; and
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Updated: 18 April 2000
Korean Diaspora: page
Lebanese Diaspora: page
Palestinian Diaspora: page
Romanian Diaspora: page 1 and page 2
Russian related communities: page
Serbian Network: page
Ukrainian Organizations: page
New concepts and terms introduced in this paper (to be added
See linked pages:  Globalization papers || Globalization web sites || Ethnicity papers || Ethnicity web sites 
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Click here for links on the Social Science Web Sites page: