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Transnational Communities Programme

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New African Diasporas

University College London 5 May 2000

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Call for Papers

This one-day colloquium is intended to produce a volume for the new Global Diasporas series published by UCL/Routledge. The focus on ‘new’ African diasporas is for three reasons. First, the vast majority of literature on African diasporas has focused on migrations associated with slavery. In contrast, and without disregarding the historical and psychological significance of slavery for contemporary African migrants, this workshop is intended to emphasise the global significance of recent and contemporary African migrations. Second, the workshop proceeds from the ‘new’ definition of diasporas that has characterised the Global Diasporas series. The series has widened the concept of ‘diaspora’ which has traditionally been conceived in terms of a ‘catastrophic’ dispersion (Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction, UCL Press). Finally, it can be contended that African diasporas, just like other diasporas, have assumed a ‘new’ power or impetus, as they interact with the process of globalisation and assume a transnational character.

The emphasis of the workshop is diasporas from so-called ‘Black Africa’, and important examples include those from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Somaliland, Zaire, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The geographical focus is on diasporas located in countries outside Africa. The workshop is intended to be multidisciplinary. There may be limited travel bursaries available to meet the travel costs of participants from Africa. The workshop will be organised around three main themes.

Dispersal and Expansion. In the Global Diasporas series, the concept ‘diaspora’ has been widened, to include not only involuntary dispersal from an original homeland, but also voluntary expansion from a homeland in pursuit of work or trade. Some ‘new’ African diasporas have resulted from involuntary dispersal from wars of independence or ‘broken-back states’ (e.g. the Eritrean diaspora). Others might better be described as trade or labour diasporas (e.g. the Senegalese diaspora). Appropriate topics might include explanations for the dispersal or expansion of diasporas from their homelands, or geographical analyses of the patterns and processes of dispersal and expansion.

Transnational Identities and Activities. According to traditional conceptions of diasporas, they are characterised by an ‘unhappiness’ in their host country, and a yearning to return to a homeland. A more recent alternative to the analysis of settlement and identity among diasporas is to focus on some of the more positive relationships between the migrants’ homelands and their places of settlement and work. In this way, diasporas can be viewed as one example of the broader concept of ‘transnational communities'. Appropriate topics might include the development of ‘transnational' or other identities within African diasporas, or their participation in 'transnational activities' such as political, social and economic linkages with their home country.

Return and the Meaning of 'Home'. The return of diasporas can be putative or real, as can their homelands. Some diasporas have a homeland and maintain a desire to return, but often do not return permanently. As they develop 'transnational identities', for others the meaning of home may be less than straightforward. Still others actually do return home, their movement thus 'unmaking' or 'regrouping' the diaspora (Nicholas van Hear, New Diasporas, UCL Press). Appropriate topics might include changing meanings of 'home' among diasporas, the resistance to return or explanations for return.

Please submit abstracts of 100 words by 1 December 1999 to: Dr Khalid Koser, Department of Geography, University College London, 26 Bedord Way, London, WC1H 0AP, TEL: +44 171 380 7564, FAX: +44 171 380 7565 EMAIL:

Co-sponsored by: ESRC Transnational Communities Research Programme, Migration Research Unit (University College London), St. Anthony's College (Oxford University), Centre for African Studies (University of London)


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