In Search of the Diasporas within Africa

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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. While the term diaspora is now in vogue for such groups scattered around the globe, it is rarely applied to African populations within Africa. Ironically, within the growing volume of literature on African diasporas, very little of it 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 Cohen's typological criteria for identifying diasporas, this article makes a preliminary examination of the literature in search of signs of diaspora formation and to identify particular diasporas within Africa. 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 many questions about identify formation and the relations between migrants and 'host' societies and states. These can only be addressed through research looking at diaspora formation in Africa; this is no easy task as it is fraught with conceptual, methodological and ethical difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-27
Number of pages23
JournalAfrican Diaspora
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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