Diaspora

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Origin

Greek, dispersion, from diaspeirein to scatter, from dia- + speirein to sow

The term derives from the Greek verb διασπείρω (diaspeirō), "I scatter", "I spread about"[1] and that form διά (dia), "between, through, across" + the verb σπείρω (speirō), "I sow, I scatter". In Ancient Greece the term διασπορά (diaspora) hence meant "scattering" and was inter alia used to refer to citizens of a dominant city-state who emigrated to a conquered land with the purpose of colonization, to assimilate the territory into the empire.

Its use began to develop from this original sense when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek; the first mention of a diaspora created as a result of exile is found in the Septuagint, first in

  • Deuteronomy 28:25, in the phrase ἔσῃ ἐν διασπορᾷ ἐν πάσαις ταῖς βασιλείαις τῆς γῆς, esē en diaspora en pasais tais basileiais tēs gēs, translated to mean "thou shalt be a dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth"

and secondly in

  • Psalms 146 (147).2, in the phrase οἰκοδομῶν Ἰερουσαλὴμ ὁ Kύριος καὶ τὰς διασπορὰς τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπισυνάξει, oikodomōn Ierousalēm ho Kyrios kai tas diasporas tou Israēl episynaxē, translated to mean "The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel".

Definitions

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

b : the area outside Palestine settled by Jews
c : the Jews living outside Palestine or modern Israel
  • 2a : the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland <the black diaspora to northern cities>
b : people settled far from their ancestral homelands <African diaspora>

Description

A diaspora (from Greek διασπορά, "scattering, dispersion") is a scattered population with a common origin in a smaller geographic area. The word can also refer to the movement of the population from its original homeland. The word has come to refer particularly to historical mass dispersions of an involuntary nature, such as the expulsion of Jews from Europe, the African Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the southern Chinese during the coolie slave trade, or the century-long exile of the Messenians under Spartan rule.[3]

Recently, scholars have distinguished between different kinds of diaspora, based on its causes such as imperialism, trade or labor migrations, or by the kind of social coherence within the diaspora community and its ties to the ancestral lands. Some diaspora communities maintain strong political ties with their homeland. Other qualities that may be typical of many diasporas are thoughts of return, relationships with other communities in the diaspora, and lack of full assimilation into the host country.

After the Bible's translation into Greek, the word Diaspora would then have been used to refer to the Northern Kingdom exiled between 740-722 BC from Israel by the Assyrians[6], as well as Jews, Benjaminites, and Levites exiled from the Southern Kingdom in 587 BCE by the Babylonians, and from Roman Judea in 70 CE by the Roman Empire. It subsequently came to be used to refer to the historical movements of the dispersed ethnic population of Israel, to the cultural development of that population or to that population itself. In English when capitalized and without modifiers (that is simply, the Diaspora), the term refers specifically to the Jewish diaspora; when uncapitalized the word diaspora may be used to refer to refugee populations of other origins or ethnicities. The wider application of diaspora evolved from the Assyrian two-way mass deportation policy of conquered populations to deny future territorial claims on their part.[9]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known recorded usage of the word diaspora in the English language was in 1876 referring "extensive diaspora work (as it is termed) of evangelizing among the National Protestant Churches on the continent". The term became more widely assimilated into English by the mid 1950s, with long-term expatriates in significant numbers from other particular countries or regions also being referred to as a diaspora. An academic field, diaspora studies, has become established relating to this sense of the word.

In all cases, the term diaspora carries a sense of displacement; that is, the population so described finds itself for whatever reason separated from its national territory, and usually its people have a hope, or at least a desire, to return to their homeland at some point, if the "homeland" still exists in any meaningful sense. Some writers have noted that diaspora may result in a loss of nostalgia for a single home as people "re-root" in a series of meaningful displacements. In this sense, individuals may have multiple homes throughout their diaspora, with different reasons for maintaining some form of attachment to each. Diasporic cultural development often assumes a different course from that of the population in the original place of settlement. Over time, remotely separated communities tend to vary in culture, traditions, language and other factors. The last vestiges of cultural affiliation in a diaspora is often found in community resistance to language change and in maintenance of traditional religious practice. [1]