Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Diaspora - The Scattering

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.

Do please comment in the box below. 


  1. I'm particularly interested in diasporas because of the necessary tie with human migrations, and what this means for both the migrants and the people who surround them. Places like Boston, which in some ways feels "more Irish than Ireland," fascinate me. Ditto ethnic enclaves like China Towns in many big cities (London's really surprised me!) or the fascinating way that languages, art, and culture can blend in diaspora zones like in the American Southwest.

    As discussed in the Bible, diasporas often face severe oppression and unwelcome. However, they can also add so much in new communities.

    Great word, Eddie! I'll be launching my day in a philosophical mood...

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Katie. And yes, London's Chinatown is wonderful - it was a favourite spot for me and my Dad on our frequent trips to his home city of London when I was a child.

    2. We might have crossed paths at some point as I enjoyed Chinatown too.

  2. We have a new CEO in the Company I work in. His presentation CV pointed him as a Member belonging to the Council of the Portuguese Diaspora*.
    Everyone was awe as if it implied he could walk in the water or "at least" separate the Red Sea ahahah
    So I told a colleague who was gushing about it what Diaspora meant and suddenly the word seemed much more glamorous than its meaning...
    It really sounds glamorous and powerful. It could be but it might not be as some growing Diasporas are already showing where instead of sharing and spreading culture they look for imposing it...
    Take Care,

    (a rough translation)*- The aim of the Council of the Portuguese Diaspora is trying to rally, taking as an example the case of Ireland , Israel or China , " 300 influential Portuguese that can help increase the credibility of Portugal ", making lobbies making in host countries.

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