|Photo by Lisa Nail|
Noun. Capitalised and uncapitalised. Late 19th century.
[Greek, from diaspeirein disperse; formed as dia- across + speirein sow, scatter.]
The dispersion of Jews among the Gentile nations;
all those Jews who live outside the biblical land of Israel;
(the situation of) any body of people living outside their traditional homeland.
In growing up, I was most used to hearing (or reading) the word diaspora in relation to The Diaspora, the dispersal of the Jewish people into the Roman world and beyond after the sacking of Jerusalem in the first century. Consequently, the word took on a negative connotation - that of a people forcibly pushed from their homeland.
However, while diaspora can be (and perhaps more often is) used to describe such hardships, it is also now used in a more positive sense, with regards a people who have spread abroad, retaining their connections to their homeland and enriching the cultural diversity of wherever they settle.
"Thou shalt be a dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth."
Deuteronomy 28:25, the Biblical origin of the term
An example of this is the Irish Diaspora. During the 1840s, millions of people left Ireland and spread all over the world, driven by the Great Famine in the most brutal of circumstances. However, those with Irish heritage maintain strong and proud connections to their ancestral home, and for such a small nation Ireland punches well above its weight culturally.
Such identity, integration and enrichment is reminiscent both of the indomitable nature of the human spirit, and of the word's root of scattering, or sowing; with the dispersal comes the opportunity for new growth, something that peoples the world over have achieved time and again in the face of the most horrendous adversity.
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