In search of the diasporas within Africa

In the last twenty years, the term diaspora has moved out of its specialist corner, where it referred to a select set of peoples. Today it often appears to be used to refer to any group of migrants and their descendants who maintain a link with their place of origin. African diasporas are now being identified all over the world and they have become the object of considerable academic interest. Ironically, very little of the literature is concerned with diasporas whose population is based on the continent. Africa is portrayed as a continent which generates diasporas rather than one in which diasporas can be found. Starting from R. Cohen’s typological criteria for identifying diasporas, this article makes a preliminary examination of the literature in search of signs of diaspora formation within Africa. It identifies three types of diaspora on the continent: those that look to their homeland outside Africa (e.g. Lebanese in West Africa, Indian Muslims); those that are considered diasporic as part of a much larger diaspora living in other continents (e.g. the Somali); and those ‘indigenous’ African diasporas who look to their origins in different parts of Africa (e.g. the Hausa). It argues that despite the long-standing patterns of mobility across Africa, which might be expected to have created diasporas, relatively few migrant groups appear to have established a diasporic identity that persists into second or third generations. This raises questions about identity formation and the relations between migrants and ‘host’ societies and States. Bibliogr., notes, sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract, edited]

Title: In search of the diasporas within Africa
Author: Bakewell, Oliver
Year: 2008
Periodical: African Diaspora: a Journal of Transnational Africa in a Global World
Volume: 1
Issue: 1-2
Pages: 5-27
Language: English
Geographic term: Africa
Subject: diasporas
External link: https://hdl.handle.net/10.1163/187254608X346024
Abstract: In the last twenty years, the term diaspora has moved out of its specialist corner, where it referred to a select set of peoples. Today it often appears to be used to refer to any group of migrants and their descendants who maintain a link with their place of origin. African diasporas are now being identified all over the world and they have become the object of considerable academic interest. Ironically, very little of the literature is concerned with diasporas whose population is based on the continent. Africa is portrayed as a continent which generates diasporas rather than one in which diasporas can be found. Starting from R. Cohen’s typological criteria for identifying diasporas, this article makes a preliminary examination of the literature in search of signs of diaspora formation within Africa. It identifies three types of diaspora on the continent: those that look to their homeland outside Africa (e.g. Lebanese in West Africa, Indian Muslims); those that are considered diasporic as part of a much larger diaspora living in other continents (e.g. the Somali); and those ‘indigenous’ African diasporas who look to their origins in different parts of Africa (e.g. the Hausa). It argues that despite the long-standing patterns of mobility across Africa, which might be expected to have created diasporas, relatively few migrant groups appear to have established a diasporic identity that persists into second or third generations. This raises questions about identity formation and the relations between migrants and ‘host’ societies and States. Bibliogr., notes, sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract, edited]