Diaspora as Frame and Object of Analysis in Asian American Studies

Authored by: Martin Joseph Ponce

The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415738255
eBook ISBN: 9781315817514
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813927


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Diaspora is a Greek word that refers to the scattering of a people from an originary location to other places. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, its component parts dia- (through, over, or across) and speirein (to scatter or to sow) combine to denote dispersal and movement. Robin Cohen explains that for the ancient Greeks, “the expression was used to describe the colonization of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean in the Archaic period (800–600 BC)” but has since “acquired a more sinister and brutal meaning” for “Jews, Africans, Palestinians and Armenians,” signifying “a collective trauma, a banishment, where one dreamed of home but lived in exile.” 1 Brent Hayes Edwards writes that the term “was used to translate a relatively wide number of Hebrew words in the Septuagint [the Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah], including words relating both to scattering and to exile.” Drawing on the work of Hellenic period scholars, he reminds us, however, that “the Greek word [diaspora] never translates the important Hebrew words for exile (such as galut and golah).” The condition of exile, within the Jewish intellectual tradition, is reserved for the anguished experience of homelessness and uprootedness that results from “the loss of that ‘homeland’ with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.” 2

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