Span: Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 34-35, 1992-93
Diasporas
Edited by Vijay Mishra

Introduction: Diaspora

Vijay Mishra

In the present postcolonial stage of capitalism words have become as mobile and migratory as bodies. In an issue of SPAN directed to the Diaspora it is salutary to check the dictionary entry for the word in the Oxford English Dictionary, 1989 edition, to see what is said by the voice of authority from the Metropolitan Centre.

diaspora [a. Gr. diaspora dispersion, f. diaspeirein to disperse, f. dia through + speirein to sow, scatter.]
The Dispersion; i.e. (among the Hellenistic Jews) the whole body of Jews living dispersed among the Gentiles after the Captivity (John vii. 35); (among the early Jewish Christians) the body of Jewish Christians outside of Palestine (Jas. i. I, I Pet. i. I). Hence transf.: see quots.
(Originating in Deut. xxviii. 25 (Septuagint), ese diaspora en pasais basileiais tes ges, thou shalt be a diaspora (or dispersion) in all kingdoms of the earth.)
1876 C.M. DAVIES Unorth. Lond. 153 [The Moravian body's] extensive diaspora work (as it is termed) of evangelizing among the National Protestant Churches on the continent. 1881 tr. Wellhausen in Encycl. Brit. XIII. 420/1 s.v. Israel. As a consequence of the revolutionary changes which had taken place in the conditions of the whole East, the Jewish dispersion (diaspora) began vigorously to spread. 1885 Encycl. Brit. XVIII. 760 s.v. Philo, The development of Judaism in the diaspora differed in important points from that in Palestine. 1889 Edin. Rev. No. 345.66 The mental horizon of the Jews of the Diaspora was being enlarged.
[Oxford English Dictionary 1989]

It appears that there is a 100-year gap of citations to fill to connect this word with the complex history of 20th century capitalism.
This issue of SPAN is devoted to the concept of 'diaspora' in a wider sense, more fragmented and dispersed. In order to help the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary in their task of keeping the English language up-to-date, we provide for their convenience the following additional entry:

1992: SPAN, Nos. 34-35.
1. Relatively homogeneous, displaced communities brought to serve the Empire (slave, contract, indentured, etc.) co-existing with indigenous/other races with markedly ambivalent and contradictory relationship with the Motherland(s). Hence the Indian diasporas of South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, Malaysia; the Chinese diasporas of Malaysia, Indonesia. Linked to high (classical) Capitalism.
2. Emerging new diasporas based on free migration and linked to late capitalism: post-war South Asian, Chinese, Arab, Korean communities in Britain, Europe, America, Canada, Australasia.
3. Any group of migrants that sees itself on the periphery of power, or excluded from sharing power.

Thanks are due to Kateryna Longley, David Birch, Marion Campbell, Kathy Trees, Michele Drouart, Krishna Sen, Manu Madan, Bob Hodge and Diana Clegg for their help in putting together this volume.

Vijay Mishra
Guest Editor


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