Professor Anupam Chander defines diasporas as groups who maintain ties to a homeland while living abroad and present a challenge to standard paradigms of international law.
The dominant statist model of international law, which limits the reach of a state’s laws to its own geographic boundaries, allows no legal connection between a diaspora and its homeland. The cosmopolitan model of international law which minimizes the importance of nationality, also discourages such legal ties.
Many global development agendas, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, have made an irreversible commitment to keeping issues of diversity and inclusion at the center of human development. Given the social capital created by their diasporic journey, diaspora communities are critical contributors to such visions. Promoting diversity through diaspora communities builds momentum for diaspora individuals to be seen as changemakers in the advancement of sustainable and inclusive societies. Today’s diaspora—people dispersed from their homelands while maintaining ties to those homelands and to one another—votes, invests capital, participates in political life, and even takes up arms for a distant homeland. Not only are these expressions of private association and culture, but they are also markers of citizenship and nationhood.
Diaspora communities’ unique position in terms of having multiple senses of belonging is at the heart of how they can contribute to progress on diversity, inclusivity, and belonging. Because of the social capital provided by such belonging, diasporas have become a conduit for achieving collaborative social and political outcomes that can contribute to development.
Diaspora people bring nuanced understanding of issues and the ability to approach complex problems from multiple perspectives. This ability, for example, has resulted in diaspora engagement in social movements for the under-represented and marginalized in society. As a result, promoting and advancing diaspora leaders – both individually and institutionally, has gained prominence. Another important consideration in this area is how to strengthen intergenerational diaspora leadership in order to ensure diaspora belonging across generations.
For diasporas, the desire to contribute knowledge and skills is strong. For example, 95% of African health professionals who attended a conference on mobilizing the diaspora for healthcare capacity building in Africa were willing to serve as a consultant or expert on a temporary basis. Aside from their specific fields of expertise, skilled diasporans may also contribute economically to their homeland through philanthropic activities undertaken independently or in collaboration with professional associations or other diaspora organizations.
This reflects an increasing recognition in these industries that diaspora leaders bring familiarity with local and global cultures, markets, and procedures. Diaspora leaders are positioning themselves as one of the most appealing sources of leadership to address challenges in these sectors in the networked age of economic, political, and social frameworks.
An unruly swarm of descriptive or interpretative terms now jostle and converse in an attempt to characterize the contact zones of nations, cultures, and regions: terms like border, travel, creolization, transculturation, hybridity, and diaspora. When nation states must, to some extent, integrate diversity, they do not have to do so on these terms. Tribal displacements and networks stand out among the diverse range of contemporary diasporic cultural forms.
The diaspora community’s diversity influences their engagement over time; and as diasporans become more integrated into the host society, they develop their skills and knowledge. The community mobilizes for the expression of their identity, the preservation or acquisition of power or other resources, or both. The expression of their identity where they have come from may be based on a sense of belonging, responses to feelings of marginalization in their adopted society, or a sense that their homeland identity would be lost if proactive expression were not given.
Diversity of the African Diaspora in Europe
African diaspora refers to all people with African ancestors, regardless of race, culture, ethnicity, nationality, or religion, and includes North African Arabs, Berbers, and others. In a European context, such a continental sense of the term could be meaningful, such as, when discussing overlapping social positions of racialization and identity formation of African youth from north, central, and western Africa in segregated Banlieues around French cities. An example is in highlighting their shared diasporic conditions of not being (fully) part of the French nation, how they are stereotyped and discriminated against in similar ways in the French society, how they live and interact in the same communities, share cultural identifications with hip-hop music, and so on.
The so-called New African Diasporas of postcolonial African migrants, as well as the vast diversity of mostly New, but also Old African diasporas in Europe, play no significant role in their conceptualizations. Given the large presence of New African Diasporas in Europe, the ethnic, cultural, and even racial diversity of African Europeans, with diverse backgrounds and histories, as well as their recent presence in relatively large numbers in European countries, we cannot assume the presence of self-identified national Black communities in Europe, particularly in any cultural sense.
The diversity of Black Europe necessitates a representation of African diasporic identity that incorporates the diversity of Black identities while connecting them to one another to demonstrate that they indeed constitute a diaspora rather than an unconnected aggregate of different peoples linked only in name. Some choose to join, while others do not, owing in part to tensions, division, and diversity along ethnic and religious lines, which tend to exclude groups with no affinity with the same identity. Nonetheless, this is an issue that has almost certainly gone unnoticed in previous studies on Ghanaian diaspora communities in Europe.
Anthologists and critics in North America have approached immigrant theatre through categories such as multiculturalism, ethnicity, diversity, and color, and playwrights of Indian origin are either missing or overshadowed by their Afro-Caribbean, East Asian, and European counterparts. Furthermore, some immigrant groups from the colonial Indian diaspora were uprooted a second time during the postwar period due to forced or voluntary migrations to the west.
Efforts to build a new nation clearly and unequivocally as ‘home’ in the face of this diverse history have thus met with two kinds of criticism: that they ‘ignore the multiple displacements of many Indians,’ and that they ‘fail to grapple with those, such as Sikhs or Muslims, who, by virtue of India’s unmistakable Brahminical-Hindu underpinning, are already outside India, even if they appear to be within it.
In the cultural field, the diaspora today has different meanings and forms than it did a few decades ago. Artists, like other people on the move, have different motivations in the context of globalization than they did previously. It is a desire for new experiences, personal growth, and enjoyment of cultural diversity. Because of the enormous diversity in its conceptualization, the concept of diaspora is broad, taking many forms and components. As a result, it is necessary to be relevant in theorizing and conceptualizing it. Early discussions of diaspora centered on the concept of a conceptual “homeland.”
Feature by: Eric Muhia
Author Image Attribution: Eric Muhia
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