Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe



Language: English

'The term diaspora first appeared in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures made for the Hellinizing Jewish community in Alexandria; begun sometime in the third century B.C.E., the Septuagint was the medium through which most early Christians, whether Jewish or gentile in origin, would encounter the Jewish law, prophets and writings. Used in Deuteronomy 28:25, the term diaspora combines dia (through, throughout) with spora (sowing, scattering, dissemination; related to the English spore, spread, and sperm). The notion of the diaspora as the dispersed Jewish community outside of Judea was first developed in the Hellenistic era as well. The existence of a diaspora posed a theological dilemma, for residence outside the holy land was widely seen as a penalty for  national transgression. After the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. and the dispersion of Jews outside of Palestine, the rabbis reinterpreted the biblical notion of galut to refer also to a more abstract sense of exile and alienation. Ever since, exile has been a leitmotif of Jewish thought, not only political but metaphysical. [...] From deportation to exile to alienation, to imagined communities, diaspora has had a long career. Today it has moved well beyond its historically unique tie to Jewish experience [and the term has been applied to many other communities, including Armenian, black, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Greek, Palestinian, etc.]. 

The notion of diaspora is quite suggestive for media studies. First, diaspora suggests the peculiar spatial organisation of broadcast audiences—social aggregates sharing a common symbolic orientation without sharing intimate interaction. Indeed, broadcasting stems from the same line of sowing imagery as diaspora. Second, the German term for diaspora, Zerstreuung, also means 'distraction'. Hence, in German diaspora has a double relevance for media studies: scatteredness describes at once the spatial configuratioin of the audience and its attitude of reception. To indulge in popular entertainment, as the great theorists of Zerstreuung, ranging from Heidegger to Adorno, have argued, is to go into a kind of exile from one's authentic center.' (Peters 1999: 23-24) 

In Global Diasporas: An Introduction (1997), Robin Cohen suggests the following nine criteria to define the classical notion of diaspora.

1. dispersal from an original homeland, often traumatically, to two or more foreign regions;
2. alternatively, the expansion from a homeland in search of work, in pursuit of trade or to further colonial ambitions;
3. a collective memory and myth about the homeland, including its location, history and achievements;
4. an idealization of the putative ancestral home and a collective commitment to its maintenance, restoration, safety and prosperity, even to its creation;
5. the development of a return movement that gains collective approbation;
6. a strong ethnic group consciousness sustained over a long time and based on a sense of distinctiveness, a common history and the belief in a common fate;
7. a troubled relationship with host societies, suggestion a lack of acceptance at the least or the possibility that another calamity might befall the group;
8. a sense of empathy and solidarity with co-ethnic member in other countries of settlement; and
9. the possibility of a distinctive creative, enriching life in host countries with a tolerance for pluralism. (p. 26)


John Durham Peters (1999),'Exile, nomadism and diaspora', Home, Exile, Homeland: Film, Media, and the Politics of Place, ed. Hamid Naficy, New York and London: Routledge, pp. 17-41. 

Robin Cohen (1997), Global Diasporas: An Introduction, London: UCL Press 

W. Safran (1991) 'Diasporas in modern societies: myths of homeland and return’. Diaspora 1 (1), 83-99.  

Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 10 Oct 2006 • Comment on this term

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