Global Diasporas: An Introduction

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Routledge, 2008 - Social Science - 219 pages
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In a perceptive and arresting analysis, Robin Cohen introduces his distinctive approach to the study of the world's diasporas. This book investigates the changing meanings of the concept and the contemporary diasporic condition, including case studies of Jewish, Armenian, African, Chinese, British, Indian, Lebanese and Caribbean people.

The first edition of this book had a major impact on diaspora studies and was the foundational text in an emerging research and teaching field. This second edition extends and clarifies Robin Cohen's argument, addresses some critiques and outlines new perspectives for the study of diasporas. It has also been made more student-friendly with illustrations, guided readings and suggested essay questions.

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User Review  - AndrewBlackman - LibraryThing

This is an excellent introduction to the theory of diasporas, a term which has expanded considerably in recent years from its original use in the Jewish Diaspora to describe all kinds of cultural and ... Read full review

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Global Diaspora; An Introduction, Robin Cohen, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2003, 228 pp., ISBN: 0-295-97620-9
[Kristanto Budiprabowo – TATOK]
In the book titled Global Diaspora; an Introduction, Cohen explores some cases of human mobilization from the early history of civilized humanity until the contemporary era in order to reveal the core problems of diaspora people. As a classic social phenomenon, studying diaspora people involves many approaches dealing with sociological, psychological, historical and political theory. Even though this approaches create varieties meaning of diaspora, according to Cohen “…, all diasporic communities settled outside their natal (or imagined natal) territories, acknowledge that “the old country” – a nation often buried deep in language, religion, custom and folklore – always has some claim on their loyalty and emotions.” (p.ix). In this innovative book, Cohen sees that theorizing diaspora should start based on the cases of people who live outside their origin rather than using a particular theory already establish to portray them (p.xi). This book introduces a model to understand diaspora community and the consequence of their new existence, whether for the host community or for themselves.
The table of contents of this book follows Cohen’s typology of diaspora people that are “victim, labour, trade, imperial, and cultural diaspora” (pp.x-xi). It is very helpful for the readers to find important parts of his ideas. Cohen also makes a conclusion in the end of every chapter that shows his careful analysis of each type of diaspora people. The list of tables that complements the table of contents also gives a more detailed map of worldwide diaspora people. The organization of the book is divided into eight chapters; each contains two or three examples of what Cohen’s typology in the title of the chapter.
Chapter 1 of the book, titled “Classical notions of diaspora: transcending the Jewish tradition” is an effort to ground a theory of diaspora by exploring the experience of the Jewish in the past. Although the Jews’ area was around Jerusalem, in the past Jewish community diaspora had been a tradition. They stretched over to their surrounding states as slaves or as occupies of land. In this case, diaspora is closely correlated with the community habits. In the Bible, Jews was mostly connected their consciousness as diaspora with the divine. Moreover, Jews’ cultural identity was built during the process of building a nation which mostly they did as diaspora. Using this analysis, Cohen then grounds his theory of diaspora. He draws a theory that studying diaspora people always correlate not only in people’s awareness but also on their means of life (p.21). From this point of view, studying diaspora is studying social and cultural changes that happened during and after people migrate from their origin to the new one. This chapter makes me ask the question: do the social and cultural changes happen effectively only in the context of diaspora? Since the experience of diaspora people also influence their consciousness, Cohen’s theory of diaspora is asking about contemporary dimension of social and cultural changes.
In the case study of the Africans and Armenians (chapter 2) who inhabit in new places, Cohen shows us how some diaspora people suffer as victims of other country’s domination. According to Cohen, “Both diasporas were widely dispersed and both clung on to collective memory and myth about the homeland, its location and its achievements” (p.55). It is slightly different than the case of Indians who moved to Great Britain because of the Imperialism. In chapter 3 Cohen suggests two kinds of Indian diasporas which are “labor diaspora” and “British imperial diaspora”(p.78). Both of them have the same memory correlating with their culture and religion. Their cross-cultural interaction with the host country community united them in the same memory, but because of their attitudes and economical circumstances

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About the author (2008)

Robin Cohen is Professorial Fellow at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford. He taught for many years at Warwick and has also held appointments at the Universities of Ibadan, the West Indies and Cape Town. His other books include The New Helots (2003), The Cambridge Survey of World Migration (edited, 1995), Frontiers of Identity (1994), Migration and its Enemies (2006) and Global Sociology, with Paul Kennedy (rev. 2007).

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