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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 1 .


Global Diasporas. An Introduction
Robin Cohen.

(London: UCL Press, 1997).
228pp. Index. Bibl.
Pb.: 13.95; ISBN 0-816624593.


Diasporas are generally understood as self sustaining (minority) communities whose exile from a natal homeland was occasioned by some traumatic event in the past. The diaspora often nurtures the idea of a return to this homeland some time in the future. Cohen analyses the concept and broadens the theory of diaspora. Besides victim displacements he identifies diasporas resulting from labour migration, trade, and imperial colonisation. Each category of the typology is discussed at length and well- documented examples are given. The Jewish diaspora, probably the most cited example in the literature, as well as the Armenian and African diasporas are seen as examples of the victim category. The Indian and British diasporas are examples of labour and imperial dispersals. The Chinese and Lebanese, as well as many of the overseas Indian communities, are examples of trade diasporas. More complex cases such as the Sikh and Caribbean diasporas are also discussed. Cohen's analysis is an important contribution to the theory of international migration, ethnic relations, and transnational communities. Diasporic communities have benefited from advances in global communications technology. Existing social networks may transnationalise and play an important part in the exchange of information, capital, and people in a global context.


Charles Westin, Stockholm University



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