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The term diaspora ([ diˈaspoʀa ]; ancient Greek διασπορά diasporá , dispersion, scatteredness') denotes the existence of religious , national , cultural or ethnic communities abroad after they have left their traditional homeland and are sometimes scattered over large parts of the world. In a figurative sense, which is often colloquial, it can also refer to the communities themselves living in this way or their settlement area.

Originally, and for many centuries, the term only referred to the exile of the Jewish people and their dispersal outside their historical homeland. Since early modern times he has also referred to local minorities of the Christian diaspora. In Greece, the term is used to designate the Greeks abroad who make up over half of the Greek population.

Since the 1990s, the term diaspora has been increasingly brought into semantic proximity to the concepts of transnationalism or transmigration .

Origin and meaning

The word comes from the translation of the Septuagint , the Greek translation of the Hebrew-Aramaic Bible ( Tanakh ): "The Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth" ( Deut. 28.64  EU ) It is used as a metaphor that describes the dissolution of the people or separation and distance from their homeland.

Jewish diaspora

Originally, diaspora denoted settlements of the Jews that were closed after the fall of the kingdom of Judah in 586 BC. First arose in Babylonian exile and spread from there and from Palestine in the following centuries . After the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine by Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD , a new situation arose: unlike other refugees who set out in search of a new place to live, the expelled Jews were characterized by their being sent to one for religious reasons Believed to return to their homeland in Palestine. This belief in the Promised Land was anchored both in writing in the Hebrew-Aramaic Bible ( Dtn 30.3  EU ) and in the main prayer of the Jews . The end of the diaspora was to be brought about by the arrival of the Messiah ( Isa 11.12  EU ; Isa 27.12f  EU ). This unique situation, which had an identity-forming effect on the Jews, motivated some scholars to limit the meaning of the term diaspora to the Jewish exile life from the first Babylonian exile to the expulsion from Palestine in 135 AD. On the other hand, the life of the Jews in the period after their expulsion in 135 up to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 is said to be called Galut. This definition became influential in Judaic studies because it is the only one given in the Encyclopaedia Judaica .

Today, however, the term is often applied to different manifestations of life outside of home, even if this is not tied to a belief in a Messiah. Nevertheless, the Jewish diaspora with 8,074,300 people (as of January 1, 2016) is still a relatively large and significant diaspora despite its inflationary use.

Other religious and ethnic diaspores

The term has also been used to refer to local minorities of the Christian diaspora since the early modern period. While the term diaspora has a negative connotation in the historical context of religion, the term diaspora in the current theoretical discourse no longer necessarily has a primarily negative connotation. In any case, the diasporic situation - life as an ethnic or cultural community abroad - can be seen as a paradigm of the globalized world. The diaspora finds itself in the field of tension between cosmopolitan detachment and a nationalism that no longer defines itself purely territorially. Diasporic cultures and groups have become diverse and heterogeneous. Terms used in the context such as exile , immigrant , outcast, refugee , expatriate or minority and transnationality show the problems of creating a generally applicable definition of the term diaspora from today's perspective.

William Safran has established six rules for differentiating diaspores from migrant communities . They keep a myth alive or keep a collective memory of their homeland. They consider their ancestral home to be their true home to which they will eventually return. They are committed to restoring or maintaining this home. And they relate personally or on behalf of their homeland to the point where it shapes their identity.

In addition to material problems, the diaspora situation confronts people with the question of their cultural identity . They often emphasize and exaggerate the values ​​of their country of origin. Voluntary or forced demarcation and exclusion on the one hand ( parallel society ), assimilation up to the loss of the native language or religion of the community on the other hand are the extremes between which diaspora populations seek their way. The experience gained over the centuries can be valuable for a world in which cultural diversity is becoming the norm. Overall, minorities , who for a long time nowhere can hope to become a majority, develop specific political concepts; also towards other minorities.

Robin Cohen distinguishes between different concepts of diaspora in his book on the concept of diaspora. First of all, the victim diaspora , for which he cites the Armenians , the Jews or the African slaves as examples . He also lists the diaspora of labor migration and population movements in imperial colonial empires, citing the Indians in the Commonwealth as an example . He speaks of the diaspora of trade and examines it using the example of the Chinese and Lebanese. He describes a cultural diaspora and discusses this using the example of the Caribbean diaspora. After all, he deals with those notions of diaspora which above all articulate a strong longing for a homeland or even cultivate a myth about this homeland. The last traces of their original cultural affiliation of people in a diaspora are therefore often the resistance of the exiled community to a change of language and the maintenance of traditional religious practice.

List of diaspores

Important diaspores include the following communities (in alphabetical order):

Modern diaspora

As the century of migration , the 20th century is characterized by countless refugee movements , which have their origins in war, nationalism, poverty and racism. In the first half of the 20th century, numerous refugees from Europe, Asia and North Africa saw their salvation in North America.

The refugee ethnic groups include a .:

Diaspora politics

Diaspora policy, also known as emigrant policies, aims in most cases on the one hand to strengthen the ties of the emigrants to their places of origin and countries and on the other hand to promote their integration in the host country. Diaspora policy should not be confused with emigration policy, which regulates the act of emigration itself. Diaspora policy starts later: With the rights, duties and participation opportunities of emigrated citizens who already live outside the national borders. The approaches to integrating the emigrated citizens in their countries of origin are referred to as "state-led transnationalism" (in English state-led transnationalism).

Reasons for diaspora politics

There are many reasons why countries of origin have an interest in lasting ties to their emigrants. They range from ensuring a steady flow of money transfers (remittances) to controlling the population living abroad to functionalizing the emigrants as a foreign policy lobby in the country of residence. The most important policy area is civil rights, followed by social policy measures that represent an expansion of welfare state functions beyond national borders.

Diaspora policy is also important for the host countries of the migrants, because some countries actively help their emigrated citizens to integrate into the local society. Such political approaches can lower the integration costs for emigrants - and offer a so far little-used potential for cooperation between countries of origin and destination.

Challenges for home and host countries

Diaspora politics nonetheless remains a challenge. The expansion of policies beyond national borders answers a concern of many emigrants, but it also leads to new demands - be it for more transparent and institutionalized participation in the country of origin or for more and better support in the host country. This remains difficult terrain for government policy. Beyond the national borders, closely coordinated political approaches are required for areas that fall within the jurisdiction of very different authorities in the country itself. At the same time, the resources for implementation abroad via the consular network and cooperation with migrant organizations and local representatives are generally much lower.

Latin America as a pioneer

The tolerance of dual citizenship has become more widespread in Latin America than in any other region of the world. With the exception of Cuba, all states allow their emigrated citizens to acquire a second citizenship without losing the first. While nationality and citizenship are often used synonymously in Europe, there is a legal distinction between the two categories in Latin America. While nationality denotes membership in a nation state, citizenship (in Spanish ciudadanía) is a sub-category of it, which relates to the status of formal participation in the political community.

Research on Latin America shows that the expansion of diaspora politics there is linked to an orientation towards civil rights and state services that can have a positive influence on integration in the host countries. It is also true for European host countries that among the diverse forms in which countries of origin maintain ties with their emigrants, there are opportunities for productive cooperation that can reduce the costs of migration and integration - for the benefit of all parties involved. Both countries of origin and receiving countries as well as migrants can benefit from this.

The expansion of state functions and political innovations in dealing with emigrants are a global trend that reflects a new interest in the countries of origin in their emigrated citizens. Latin America experiences the expansion of diaspora politics as strategies to revive a broken relationship with all those people who have left their countries for lack of prospects.


  • Gavriʾel Sheffer: Diaspora Politics. At Home Abroad . Cambridge University Press, New York 2003, ISBN 0-521-81137-6 .
  • Ruth Mayer: Diaspora. A critical explanation of terms . Transcript, Bielefeld 2005, ISBN 3-89942-311-9 .

Web links

Commons : Diasporas  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Diaspora  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. entry diaspora in Duden.de , accessed on April 13 of 2019.
  2. Jenny Kuhlmann, Exil, Diaspora, Transmigration , Federal Center for Political Education , October 6, 2014. Accessed July 4, 2017.
  3. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica , Second Edition, Volume 5: Coh-Doz , pp. 637–643.
  4. Sergio DellaPergola: World Jewish Population, 2016. In: Arnold Dashefsky, Ira M. Sheskin (Ed.): American Jewish Year Book 2016. Springer, 2017, pp. 274, 311-317. ISBN 978-3-319-46121-2 (e-book: doi: 10.1007 / 978-3-319-46122-9 ; limited preview in Google Books ).
  5. Ruth Mayer: Diaspora. A critical definition. transcript Bielefeld, 10/2005. ISBN 978-3-89942-311-2 . Limited preview ( Memento from February 14, 2018 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ William Safran: Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return. In: Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies. 1, 1991, pp. 83-99 ( doi: 10.1353 / dsp.1991.0004 ).
  7. ^ Robin Cohen: Global Diasporas: An Introduction . Routledge, 2008, ISBN 978-0-415-43550-5 .
  8. http://www.demoscope.ru/weekly/2006/0251/tema02.php (Russian-Cyrillic text)
  9. ^ VG Makarov; VS Christoforov: «Passažiry‹ filosofskogo paroxoda ›. (Sud'by intelligencii, repressirovannoj letom-osen'ju 1922 g.) ». In: Voprosy filosofii No. 7 (600) 2003, pp. 113-137 [Russian: «The passengers of the ' Philosophership' . (The fate of the intelligentsia persecuted in the summer / autumn of 1922) »; contains a list with biographical information on all intellectuals exiled from Russia between 1922 and 1923].
  10. Serbs in Germany, Serbia-Montenegro.de Serbs in Germany and in German-speaking countries ( Memento from November 22, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  11. a b Pedroza, Luicy; Palop, Pau; Hoffmann, Bert: New Proximity: The Policy of the States of Latin America towards their Emigrants . Ed .: GIGA Focus Latin America. tape 3 . Hamburg July 2016, p. 13 ( giga-hamburg.de [PDF]).
  12. Pedroza, L., Palop, P. & Hoffmann, B .: Emigrant Policies in Latin America and the Caribbean . FLACSO-Chile, Santiago de Chile 2016, ISBN 978-956-205-257-3 , pp. 360 ( giga-hamburg.de [PDF]).