AskDefine | Define diaspora

Dictionary Definition



1 the body of Jews (or Jewish communities) outside Palestine or modern Israel
2 the dispersion of the Jews outside Israel; from the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 587-86 BC when they were exiled to Babylonia up to the present time
3 the dispersion or spreading of something that was originally localized (as a people or language or culture)

User Contributed Dictionary

see Diaspora


Alternative spellings


From διασπορά from διασπείρω from διά + σπείρω.


rfap US
  • a UK /daɪˈaspəɹə/


  1. The dispersion of the Jews among the Gentiles after the Captivity.
  2. Any similar dispersion.
    The African diaspora caused a melding of cultures, both African cultures and Western ones, in many places.
  3. A group so dispersed, especially Jews outside of the land of Israel.
  4. The regions where such a dispersed group (especially the Jews) resides, taken collectively.
    Jews in the diaspora often have a different perspective of anti-Semitism from Israeli Jews.
  5. Any dispersion of an originally homogeneous entity, such as a language or culture.
    • Randolph Quirk,
      [T]he diaspora of English into several mutually incomprehensible languages.


dispersion of a group of people
  • French: diaspora
  • German: Diaspora
  • Hebrew: גלות
  • Russian: диаспора



fr-noun f

Extensive Definition

The term diaspora (in Ancient Greek, διασπορά – "a scattering or sowing of seeds") refers to the forcing of any people or ethnic population to leave their traditional homelands, the dispersal of such people, and the ensuing developments in their culture.


Initially the term diaspora meant "the scattered" and was used by the Ancient Greeks to refer to citizens of a dominant city-state who emigrated to a conquered land with the purpose of colonization, to assimilate the territory into the empire. The current meaning started to develop from this original sense when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek; the word "diaspora" then was used to refer to the population of Jews exiled from Judea in 586 BC by the Babylonians, and from Jerusalem in AD 136 by the Roman Empire. Probably the earliest use of the word in reference specifically to Jewish exiles is in the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 28:25, "thou shalt be a dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth".
It subsequently came to be used to refer interchangeably to the historical movements of the dispersed ethnic population of Israel, the cultural development of that population, or the population itself. The term was assimilated from Greek into English in the mid-20th century. As an academic field, diaspora studies has been established relating to the wider modern meaning of the usage 'diaspora'.
Sometimes refugees of other origins or ethnicities may be called a diaspora, but the two terms are far from synonymous. Long-term expatriates in significant numbers from one particular country may also be referred to as a diaspora. In all cases, the term diaspora carries a sense of displacement; that is, the population so described finds itself for whatever reason separated from its national territory; and usually it has a hope, or at least a desire, to return to their homeland at some point, if the "homeland" still exists in any meaningful sense. Some writers have noted that diaspora may result in a loss of nostalgia for a single home as people "re-root" in a series of meaningful displacements. In this sense, individuals may have multiple homes throughout their diaspora, with different reasons for maintaining some form of attachment to each.
History contains numerous diaspora-like events. The Migration Period relocations, which included several phases, are just one set of many. The first phase Migration Period displacement from between AD 300 and 500 included relocation of the Goths, (Ostrogoths, Visigoths), Vandals, Franks, various other Germanic tribes, (Burgundians, Langobards, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Suebi, Alemanni, Varangians), Alans and numerous Slavic tribes. The second phase, between AD 500 and 900, saw Slavic, Turkic, and other tribes on the move, resettling in Eastern Europe and gradually making it predominantly Slavic, and affecting Anatolia and the Caucasus as the first Turkic peoples (Avars, Bulgars, Huns, Khazars, Pechenegs) arrived. The last phase of the migrations saw the coming of the Magyars and the Viking expansion out of Scandinavia.
However, such colonizing migrations cannot be considered as diasporas indefinitely; over very long periods, eventually the migrants assimilate into the settled area so completely that it becomes their new homeland. Thus the modern population of Germany do not feel that they belong in the Siberian steppes that the Alemanni left 16 centuries ago; the Hungarian Magyars are not drawn back to the Altai; and the English descendants of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes do not yearn to reoccupy the plains of northwest Germany. In comparison, however, the Jewish Sephardim of Iberia and Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe also settled in those areas for many centuries, and yet did not assimilate because of strong Jewish traditions of separation, a religious commitment to their own kind, and intolerance on the part of the majority.
One of the largest and most historic diasporas of pre-modern times was the African Diaspora which began at the beginning of the 16th century. During the Atlantic Slave Trade, about ten million people from West, West-Central and Southeast Africa were transported to the Western Hemisphere as slaves. This population would leave a major influence on the culture of English, French, Portuguese and Spanish New World colonies. The Arab slave trade similarly took large numbers out of the continent, although the effect of the diaspora to the east is more subtle.
Another example is the mid-19th century Irish diaspora, brought about by a combination of harsh imperial British policies and the An Gorta Mór or "Great Hunger" of the Irish Famine. Estimates vary between 45% and 85% of Ireland having emigrated, to Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.

The 20th century and beyond

The twentieth century saw huge population movements. Some involved large-scale transfers of people by government action. For instance, Stalin shipped millions of people to Eastern Russia, Central Asia, and Siberia both as punishment and to stimulate development of the frontier regions. Some migrations occurred to avoid conflict and warfare. Other diasporas were as a consequence of political decisions, such as the end of colonialism.
During the Japanese occupation of China (1937-1945), Manchuria was considered a Japanese prefecture, and Korea (1910-1945) was also under Japanese influence. Millions of Chinese fled to western provinces not occupied by Japan (i.e. Tibet and Sinkiang) and to Southeast Asia. More than 100,000 Koreans moved across the Amur River into Eastern Russia (then the Soviet Union) away from the Japanese.
Other diasporas have occurred as people fled ethnically directed persecution, oppression or Genocide. Examples of these include: the Armenians who were forced out of Anatolia by the Ottoman Turks during the Armenian Genocide1 (1915–1918), with survivors settling in areas of the Levant, United States, Europe and South America.
European Jews emigrated from the Russian Empire, Hungary and Poland, fleeing pogroms and discrimination from the 1880s to shortly after WWI. Others fled from persecution by Nazi Germany actions, mostly before the the Holocaust of World War II when borders closed. Other eastern European refugees moved west, away from Soviet annexation, and the Iron Curtain regimes after World War II. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans, who had lived in eastern countries for nearly two centuries, were expelled by the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia after WWII, and moved west. Galicia, North of Spain, sent many emigrants into exile during Franco's military regime from 1936 to his death in 1975.
The 1947 Partition resulted in the migration of millions of people between India and Pakistan. Many were murdered in the unrest of the period, with estimates of fatalities up to 10 million people. Thousands of former subjects of the British Raj went to the UK from the Indian subcontinent after India and Pakistan became independent in 1947.
During and after the Cold War-era, huge populations of refugees migrated from areas of conflict, especially from then-developing countries. In the Middle East, the Palestinian diaspora was created as a result of the establishment of Israel in 1948 and further enlarged by the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Many Iranians fled the 1979 Iranian Revolution following the fall of the Shah. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled conflict in their nation since 2003.
From Southeast Asia 30,000 French colons from Cambodia were displaced after being expelled by the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot. Beginning before that, many Vietnamese emigrated to France and later to the United States after the Vietnam War.
Diasporas have occurred in Africa, including the expulsion of 80 000 South Asians from Uganda in 1975. Hundreds of thousands of people fled from the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 into neighboring countries. Thousands of refugees from deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe have gone to South Africa.
In South America, thousands of Chilean and Uruguayan refugees fled to Europe during periods of military rule in the 1970s and '80s. A million Colombian refugees have left Colombia since 1965 to escape the country's violence and civil wars. In Central America, Nicaraguans, Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Costa Ricans and Panamanians fled conflict and economic conditions. The millions of Third World refugees created more numerous diasporal populations, but the principle of peoples' becoming refugees because of war precedes written history.
Many economic migrants may gather in such numbers outside their home country that they form an effective diaspora: for instance, the Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany; South Asians in the Persian Gulf; and Filipinos throughout the world. Since the 1970s Mexican immigrants to the United States have been chiefly economic refugees coming for work. Many have crossed the border illegally or remained undocumented aliens who never acquired legal residency or US citizenship.
Some diasporas are due to natural disasters. In a rare example of a diaspora in a prosperous Western democracy, observers have labeled evacuation from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as a "diaspora" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina of 2005, since a significant number of evacuees have not started to return.
Earlier mass movements of the two waves of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North, Midwest and West comprised a diaspora and resulted in urbanization of more than 6.5 million African Americans from 1910-1970. Many were recruited by northern businesses eager for labor for their developing industries, but the people were also voting with their feet to leave behind segregation, lynchings, disfranchisement and limited chances in a rural economy. Historians identify as another diaspora the mass migration of people during the Dust Bowl years: the "Okies" from the drought-ridden American Great Plains and "Arkies" from the Ozarks of the American South in the 1930s. The majority of both groups went west to California.
1: The events known as the "Armenian Genocide" continue to be debated. Some people do not believe the events conform to criteria for state-sponsored genocide, although they agree that many Armenians died in the turmoil of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.

In popular culture

Futuristic science fiction sometimes refers to a "Diaspora," taking place when much of humanity leaves Earth to settle on far-flung "colony worlds."
The song "Prayer of the Refugee" from Rise Against's album The Sufferer & the Witness was originally named "Diaspora" when it was leaked.

See also

diaspora in Tosk Albanian: Diaspora
diaspora in Arabic: الشتات
diaspora in Bosnian: Dijaspora
diaspora in Catalan: Diàspora
diaspora in Czech: Diaspora
diaspora in Danish: Diaspora
diaspora in German: Diaspora
diaspora in Spanish: Diáspora
diaspora in Esperanto: Diasporo
diaspora in Basque: Diaspora
diaspora in French: Diaspora
diaspora in Korean: 디아스포라
diaspora in Croatian: Dijaspora
diaspora in Indonesian: Diaspora
diaspora in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Diaspora
diaspora in Italian: Diaspora
diaspora in Hebrew: גלות
diaspora in Georgian: დიასპორა
diaspora in Dutch: Diaspora
diaspora in Dutch Low Saxon: Diaspora
diaspora in Japanese: ディアスポラ
diaspora in Norwegian: Diaspora
diaspora in Norwegian Nynorsk: Diaspora
diaspora in Polish: Diaspora
diaspora in Portuguese: Diáspora
diaspora in Russian: Диаспора
diaspora in Sicilian: Diàspora
diaspora in Simple English: Diaspora
diaspora in Slovak: Diaspóra (Židia)
diaspora in Serbian: Дијаспора
diaspora in Finnish: Diaspora
diaspora in Swedish: Diaspora
diaspora in Turkish: Diaspora
diaspora in Ukrainian: Діаспора
diaspora in Yiddish: גלות
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