What is a Diaspora?

Members of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day. Editorial credit: ACHPF / Shutterstock.com.
Members of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day. Editorial credit: ACHPF / Shutterstock.com.

A diaspora is the spread or dispersion of people in a geographical location that is different from their original homeland. That is, it is the involuntary dispersion of a population from its indigenous territory to a different place. For instance, the expulsion of the Jewish people from Judea to different parts of the world and the fleeing of the Greek following the fall of Constantinople. There are different kinds of diaspora depending on the causes. Some of the major causes of such a dispersion or spread include labor or trade migration, imperialism, and social coherence within the community.

Origin And Use Of The Term “Diaspora”

The word “diaspora” is coined from a Greek verb that translates to “I scatter” or “I spread about.” Thus, in ancient Greece, it meant “scattering” and was used in reference to the dominant city-state citizens who settled in a conquered land with the intention of colonizing the land and assimilate it into an empire. However, the use of the term began to develop as a result of the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek and is first mentioned in the Septuagint. For instance, it is used in Deuteronomy 28:25 and Psalm 147:2. After the translation of the Bible to Greek, the word was used refer to the exiled from Israel the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians as well as the Jews who were exiled from the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians.

In English, when the first later of the word is capitalized (Diaspora), the term is used to refer to the Jewish Diaspora. When uncapitalized, the term is used to refer to the refugees or immigrant population living away from their original homeland. The word was widely assimilated in English in mid-1950s, with expatriates and other professionals working and living away from their homeland referred to as diaspora.

Diaspora In Numbers

Over the last half-a-century, the diaspora population has more than tripled, from approximately 75 million to over 230 million according to Diaspora Alliance. About 3% of the world’s population live away from home. Interestingly, if migrants formed a single nation, it would be the 5th largest nation in the world. The US is home to the largest diaspora population. Over 60 million live in the country as immigrants. The European history is characterized by diaspora-like events. Trading and colonization have been responsible for the migration of the Europeans to different parts of the world. Although some of them have been assimilated and made the country they settled in as their home, others still have a great attachment to their original homes.

Internal Diaspora

Internal diaspora is people who have moved from their original location to another place but within the same territory or country. For instance, in the US, over 4 million people moved from their home state to other states in 2010. In Mainland China, millions of people have moved from their original homes to seek for opportunities in coastal metropolises within the country.

The Contribution Of Diaspora

Many diaspora populations are involved in meaningful and gainful activities and are achieving greater impacts in matters related to their countries of origin. They make a vital but often unrecognized contribution to the growth of their original homeland. Their remittance back to the country of origin is major contributors to the economy. They also help create a robust trading partnership with the host country, leading to access to the global market


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