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Becoming Strangers:

Travel, Trust, and the


Everyday
Day 25: Diaspora

Beginning Again: What Is a Map?


Cartographers differentiate between three distinct
but related conceptual tools that we tend to
lump together under the term map:
PLAT. A graphical representation that clarifies
ownership.
CHART. A graphical representation that
indicates how to get from one place to another.
MAP. A graphical representation that codifies a
worldview and conveys its ordering principles.

Beginning Again Again: D+G =


PolySci
Deleuze and Guattari are not thinking about the
nation-state when discussing the state.
By state they have in mind the totality of
socioeconomic, governmental, military, and
cultural entities that constitutes what we
might today refer to as the world system or
global capitalism.
Another pair of thinkers, Hardt and Negri, have
recently & influentially revived D+Gs
arguments. Instead of state they use the
term empire.

Why D+G? The Cold Wars Over

Mid-20th Century: Are We Them?


The absolute distinction
between 1st and 2nd world
nations blurs after 1950.
The poet Allen Ginsberg
demonizes all
governmental authority as
Moloch in Howl (1956),
the best-selling poem of
the 20th century.
In 1961 during his farewell
address, Pres. Eisenhower
warns against the militaryindustrial complex.

The New World Order


The fall of the Berlin Wall
(1989) and the dissolution
of the Soviet Union (1992)
ended the bipolarity
that dominated world
politics after the Russian
Revolution (1917).
In the resulting multipolar
system nation states
appeared weak when
compared to global
capitalism, the
technology-abetted flows
of money & information &
people across all national
borders.

The Challenge to the Humanities


The humanities have traditionally been divided up
along nation-state lines.
The contemporary university retains these
divisions: English literature, French
history, Mexican art.
D+Gand other thinkersand history!show us
that we cant think that way anymore. We are
in danger of missing the big picturethe
functioning of Empire in general.
Worse. We might have been wrong all along.

Turn to a New Unit of Analysis:


The Diaspora
DIASPORA. Greek for dispersion or scattering.
Originally used to refer to those Jews who live
outside of their ancestral homeland of Palestine.
Subsequently used to refer to any people
scattered across national boundaries who do
not physically inhabit the territory or nationstate of their or their ancestors origin.
The Armenian diaspora, for example, would
include all people of Armenian descent living
outside of that part of Central Asia traditionally
called Armenia.

Defining Diaspora
Diasporas are difficult to define.
Who should be included? Everyone who selfidentifies as Jewish, Armenian, etc? Do
adoptees count? Do assimilated people
count?
What about the slipperiness of identity
categories? Is there an Asian diaspora in the
U.S.? If according to Chinese definitions,
anyone of Chinese descent is Chinese, can one
speak of a diaspora?
And if one can isolate a diaspora what is it,
exactly, that one is studying? A culture? A
nation? A race? A collection of . . . stories?

Consider the Original Diaspora:


The Jews
We discussed before the Exodus, the journey through
the wilderness led by Moses from Egypt to the
Promised Land of Palestine.
The Exodus serves as a story of the creation of a
people (and a nation state): we were Pharoahs
slaves, then we entered a middle world, now we are
remade as a free people with a land that is ours.
The early kings made Jerusalem the governmental
center of this new state. Solomon built the chief
Jewish temple there ca. 957 BCE and during the 7 th
century BCE King Josiah makes the Jerusalem
temple the exclusive and only temple.

The Babylonian Captivity


Nebuchadnezzar II
conquers Judah in 597
BCE and forcibly removes
thousands of Jews to the
city of Babylon.
In 586 he destroys
Jerusalem and razes the
Temple.
During the next decades,
every revolt in Judah is
followed by further large
scale deportations.
In 538, Cyrus the Great
allows the Jews to return
to Judah and rebuild their
Temple.

Aftermath of the Babylonian


Captivity
Before 586 BCE, Judaism was a state religion centered on
Jerusalem. A priestly caste performed elaborate ritual
sacrifices at a temple that had been built by a king.
From 597 to 538 there was no Judah. From 586 to 515 there
was no temple. Judaism changed fundamentally.
The focus shifted from a placethe Jerusalem Templeand
its associated hierarchy to a sense of collective
responsibility for remembering the past and participating
in a living tradition.
The focus shifted to preserving texts (Scripture and
commentary); a language (Hebrew); and communal ties.
Educated elders (later called rabbis) supplanted priests,
and meeting halls (later known by the Greek word
synagogues) supplanted the Temple as the crucial sites
for the creation & maintenance of identity.

Post-Captivity Judaism
515 BCE to 70 CE. A very large number of Jews
remained in Babylon. Jewish scholars wrestled
with how to distinguish the religious duties of
diasporic Jews and those who lived in Judah.
70 CE to 1948 CE. After a rebellion, the Romans
razed the Second Temple. For two millennia, Jews
were a diasporic people with no homeland. Two
narrativesthe Exodus and the Babylonian
Captivityserved as guides to the long middle
world of being a people with no place.
The poetic name for JerusalemZion (one of the 2
hills on which the city is built) became shorthand
for the future utopian place where the diaspora
could gather again.

Another Diaspora: The African


Diaspora

The African Diaspora


Unlike most diasporas, the African diaspora does
not originate from a particular nation. The Middle
Passage was intended to strip people of their
former identities. They lost their goods, their
families, their names, and even their languages.
People who had been through the Middle Passage,
though, managed to pass along stories and music.
And they shared them with other peoples of
African descent.
The result was a creative, hybrid, though long
underground culture. Jazz, for example,
appeared in New Orleans in the early 20 th
century long after it had been invented and
perfected by slaves who spent their free time
drumming with each other in public squares.

The Black Atlantic


In the 1990s, scholars began to realize that they
couldnt study, say, African American culture in
isolation.
People of African descent in Europe, North, and
South America had long thought of themselves as
sharing a history and culture.
Musical innovationsjazz, blues, dub, samba,
reggae, calypso, bosso nova, rap, go-go, etc
have moved freely between the West Indies, the
US, Brazil, the UK, etc. So too have novels,
poetry, political polemics, and autobiography.
Scholars realized that they had to begin thinking in
transnational terms about The Black Atlantic
if they were ever to understand some of the most
important cultural innovations of the last 100+
years.

Defining Diaspora:
Middle Passage as a Starting Point
Robert Johnson (1911-1938)
is known as the greatest
blues guitarist.
In Crossroads Blues,
Johnson plays with the old
belief that crossroads are
dangerous middle
worlds where chance
encounters & collisions
occur.
He was said to have met
Satan at a crossroads and
sold his soul for the ability
to play the guitar like no
one else. Identity begins
at a crossingselfhood is
founded on travel and
hybridity.

Defining Diaspora:
Stealing from the Master
Bob Marley (1945-1981)
grew up in & out of the
slums of West Kingston,
Jamaica.
During the 1970s he became
the best-known reggae
artists in the world.
His song Exodus employs
a biblical vocabulary
(Babylon, tribulation,
Fathers land) to advocate
an uprising of African
peoples against the white
colonial powers.

Defining Diaspora:
Remembering Where Youve Been
In the late 1980s, the rap collective
Arrested Development was
inspired by Public Enemy to use
music as a vehicle for serious
political and intellectual
commentary.
The rise of West Coast gangsta rap
in the early 1990s eclipsed such
cerebral New York rap.
Songs such as Tennessee (1992)
though are worth remembering
as statements about the need to
revisit and re-sample the past,
however painful or
embarrassing, if one is to
understand the present.