Diaspora - Origins and Development of The Term

Origins and Development of The Term

The first mention of a diaspora created as a result of exile is found in the Septuagint in the phrase "esē diaspora en pasais basileias tēs gēs" translated to mean "thou shalt be a dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth". Its use began to develop from this original sense when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek; in Ancient Greece the term διασπορά (diaspora) meant "scattering" and was used to refer to citizens of a dominant city-state who emigrated to a conquered land with the purpose of colonization, to assimilate the territory into the empire. The term derives from the verb διασπείρω (diaspeirō), "I scatter", "I spread about" and that form διά (dia), "between, through, across" + the verb σπείρω (speirō), "I sow, I scatter". After the Bible's translation into Greek, the word Diaspora then was used to refer to the population of Jews exiled from Israel in 587 BCE by the Babylonians, and from Judea in 70 CE by the Roman Empire. It subsequently came to be used to refer to the historical movements of the dispersed ethnic population of Israel, to the cultural development of that population or to the population itself. When capitalized and without modifiers (that is, simply the Diaspora), the term refers specifically to the Jewish diaspora; when uncapitalized the word diaspora may be used to refer to refugee populations of other origins or ethnicities.(see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diaspora) The wider application of diaspora evolved from the Assyrian two-way mass deportation policy of conquered populations to deny future territorial claims on their part.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, the first known recorded usage of the word diaspora in the English language was in 1876 referring "extensive diaspora work (as it is termed) of evangelizing among the National Protestant Churches on the continent". The term became more widely assimilated into English by the mid 1950s, with long-term expatriates in significant numbers from other particular countries or regions also being referred to as a diaspora. An academic field, diaspora studies, has become established relating to this sense of the word.

In all cases, the term diaspora carries a sense of displacement; that is, the population so described finds itself for whatever reason separated from its national territory, and usually its people have a hope, or at least a desire, to return to their homeland at some point, if the "homeland" still exists in any meaningful sense. Some writers have noted that diaspora may result in a loss of nostalgia for a single home as people "re-root" in a series of meaningful displacements. In this sense, individuals may have multiple homes throughout their diaspora, with different reasons for maintaining some form of attachment to each. Diasporic cultural development often assumes a different course from that of the population in the original place of settlement. Over time, remotely separated communities tend to vary in culture, traditions, language, and other factors. The last vestiges of cultural affiliation in a diaspora is often found in community resistance to language change and in maintenance of traditional religious practice.

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