What is Diaspora? - Definition & Meaning

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  • 0:03 Definition of Diaspora
  • 1:39 Meaning of Diaspora
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cirrelia Thaxton

Cirrelia is an educator who has taught K-12 and has a doctorate in education.

Study the definition and deeper meaning of diaspora and learn how organizations are helping transnational individuals. Do your best on the quiz to evaluate your knowledge!

Definition of Diaspora

From the Greek word meaning 'to scatter,' a diaspora is defined as a community of people who do not live in their country of origin, but maintain their heritage in a new land. Many of you can probably relate to this issue, since you've got ancestral roots from one country but reside in a different place. For instance, in the United States, a plethora of ethnic communities exist. Americans can be classified according to sub-cultures, such as African-American, Mexican-American, Irish-American, and Indian-American. Inclusion of emigrants, or people who have left their homelands to settle permanently in a different one, is a major characteristic of a diaspora.

You may also hear the term 'dispersion,' which is a requirement for diaspora to exist. Dispersion refers to a movement away from a particular space, like the petals of a dandelion blowing in the wind. Thus, you can imagine that, due to dispersion, people form transnational communities in which members are committed to restoring homeland values. For instance, Jewish people living outside the land of Israel constitute a well-known example of a diaspora.

Consequently, diasporas have been associated with loss and exile--two words that denote suffering and tragedy. Another group of people--the Africans--were forced to move away from their homelands because of slavery in colonial America. Hence, a multitude of diasporas have occurred globally due to religious, social, political, economic, and even natural forces. These forces can range anywhere from violent revolutions to massive earthquakes--essentially anything that disrupts the normal flow of life.

Meaning of Diaspora

Does a diaspora have meaning beyond a community of transcultural individuals? One might expect from study of its definition that a diaspora can have different meanings. It's true that 'diaspora' has a number of kindred terms that reflect on its definition from unique perspectives. For example, 'transnationalism,' 'globalization,' 'post-colonialism,' and 'trans-culturalism' are related terms meant to mark communities of people in host societies.

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