Human Geography

“The concept of diaspora… disrupts and unsettles our hitherto settled conceptions of culture, place and identity”(Hall 1995:207) Explain and discuss. Use examples to illustrate your answer. This essay shall, as stated above, explain and discuss Hall’s 1995 quote “The concept of diaspora… disrupts and unsettles our hitherto settled conceptions of culture, place and identity”; examples shall be utilised in order to illustrate the points made. In order to begin a definition of diaspora is necessary.

The dictionary of Human Geography (p173) defines diaspora as “Literally the scattering a population… originally applied to the dispersal of Jews following the Roman conquest of Palestine… now applied more widely to other non-voluntary population dispersals… ” however Introducing Human Geographies (p291) describes it as “… dispersed communities who share multiple belongings to different places or ‘homes’ in different national spaces. ” This definition does not mention a non-voluntary aspect, implying academic uncertainty over the true meaning.

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Gilroy (1997:328) stated “Diaspora consciousness highlights the tensions between common binds created by shared origins and other terms arising from the process of dispersal and the obligation to remember a life prior to flight and kinship” which may be considered to be true for all members of diasporic societies, however the reasons behind the dispersal of such social groups can be very different. The Irish diaspora can be said to result from the potato famine in 1845-49, and the Jewish diaspora stems from their banishment from Palestine by the Romans (as previously stated).

One of the primary reasons for diasporic identities stems from colonisation and empire, e. g. the ‘black’, Chinese and Asian diaspora’s evident in the U. K. today. This essay shall provide a background of the recent patterns of diaspora, critically review the role of space and place in the generation and maintenance of diasporic identities, critically discuss Hall’s argument, and suggest the consequences of diasporic forms of culture, place and identity. References and examples will be used throughout.

Following the end of the Second World War many of the colonised countries were released, prompting a flow of migrants from the former colonies to the colonial nations. In the case of Britain this included migrants from Pakistan, India, the Caribbean (where communities were already diasporic due to displacement by the colonial slave trade), and Africa. These migrants were initially welcomed due to a shortage of low skilled workers in the post war period, as stated in Cartography’s of Diaspora (p21) “Britain experienced severe labour shortages during the post-World war II period…

At the same time having been systematically exploited during the colonial period, Britains ex-colonies faced a future of poverty… Migration of labour from the ex-colonies to the metropolis in the 1950’s was thus largely a result of colonialism and imperialism… once the colonies were a cheap source of raw materials, now they became a source of cheap labour… Asian workers came to occupy some of the lowest rungs of the … employment hierarchy”.

People did not just enter England/Europe but flowed between the colonies e. g. Indians went to a variety of places, as highlighted in ‘Culture and Economy in the Indian Diaspora (p6) “Most emigration in the nineteenth century comprised indentured labour… to economies in the pacific, Africa, the Caribbean and Australia… although ‘free’ migration of traders, craftsmen, ex-soldiers and businessmen supplemented the initial flows”. It can also be claimed diaspora’s can be considered a ancient phenomenon, e. g.

the Indian traders which travelled to South East Asia and African traders visiting South America in the ancient world – thus diaspora is a intrinsic part of human life. The mass migrations described above result in the dispersal of cultures- spread from their country of origin to any number of host societies. Migration, therefore, encourages socio-cultural relations to be considered in a global context. Post Colonial Studies (p110) states “… globalisation reflects a changing organisation of world-wide social relations in this century, one in which the nation has…

decreasing importance as… communities gain access to a globally dissimated knowledge and culture, and are affected by economic realities that bypass the boundaries of the state”. This causes a re-assessment of the way culture, place, nationality, identity and ethnicity are defined, and the meanings associated with them. Following their dispersal from their homelands, members of ethnic groups may congregate with other like people, (e. g. in Rusholme, Manchester) in order to be near others who share their group consciousness.

This may be the same religion, cuisine, dress, language and traditions. These shared representations and discourses may be fragmented and diluted in the new environment, but are often heightened as people feel different from the host society, and seek a sense of belonging and social solidarity. It can provide a notion of power in a place where the immigrants may feel alienated from the host society, and even suffer racism. “The concentration of… ethnic minorities within a city was understood as ‘a problem'”. (Social Geographies p110)

Members of diasporic societies may emphasise with others sharing their ethnic origin, living in other countries, -“… very strong association of notions of diaspora with displacement and dislocation means the experience of location can easily dissolve out of focus” (Cartographies of Diaspora p180) -and those of differing ethnic origin who share the status of being an ethnic minority in their host society. Differences have developed between members of diasporic societies and both people in their ‘base’ society (e. g.

Chinese living in China, and Chinese living in the U. K. ) and members living in other countries (E. g. Chinese living in the U. K. and Chinese living in Canada. ) Thus highlighting the importantance of place and space to identity. Cartographies of Diaspora (p242) states “… diaspora space… foregrounds what I have called ‘entanglement of genealogies of dispersal’… the concept of diaspora space decentres the subject position of ‘native’, ‘migrant’, ‘immigrant’, in such a way… the native becomes a diasporean through this entanglement…

” ‘Ethnicity’s often settle in cities, places known to be Examples of this are the many ‘china towns’ established in British urban areas, traditionally thought to be more accepting of difference. Such places are termed ‘contact zones’, and are spaces where members of the diasporic communities can congregate to meet like people, trade, shop, worship and socialise, as A Place in the World (p192) describes it “While subjugated peoples cannot readily control what emanates from the dominant culture, they do determine…

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