Theories of diaspora and their limitations
in Diaspora as translation and decolonisation
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This chapter critically examines two dominant strands of diaspora theorising, one described as the ‘ideal-type approach’ and the other coined as the ‘hybridity approach’. The former focuses on the key characteristics of diaspora, that is ‘diaspora as a being’, often constructing ideal types (for example, Cohen 1996; Safran 1991). The latter examines ‘diaspora as a becoming’ and pays attention to subjectivity, fluidity and hybridity when discussing diaspora (for example, Bhabha 1990; Brah 1996; Clifford 1994; Gilroy 1993; Hall 1990).

While the chapter recognises the conceptual clarifications these theories have brought, it raises various problems that they have introduced. The chapter attempts to push the boundaries of diaspora scholarship, which has can get hemmed into debates on either hybridity or the gardening tropes and ideal type definitions. The chapter advocates a discussion of diaspora that focuses less on who constitutes a diaspora or according to what criteria or conditions, and more on how diasporas translate and decolonise. It argues that diaspora overlaps with transnationalism and migration, but suggests that the distinction of diaspora and its potential as a critical concept can be revealed and enhanced through translation and decolonisation. The chapter offers a temporal and heterogeneous calibration of the concept of diaspora, yet it seeks to refrain from confining it to subjectivity. The chapter thus argues how we should develop an understanding of diaspora that reveals its capacity as a critical concept, claiming its transformative and far-reaching potential.


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