This revised second edition, with broader geographical scope than the first edition, places greater emphasis on historical and sociopolitical analysis. New essays that examine the African experience and slavery in the Mediterranean, the black experience in Brazil, African religious retentions in Latin American countries, and essays by women that focus on the experience and contributions of African women of the diaspora address significant areas omitted in the first volume.
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Trans-Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora
Blacks -- Cultural assimilation -- Congresses. Blacks -- Race identity -- Congresses. African Americans -- Africa -- History -- Congresses. African Americans. African diaspora. Blacks -- Cultural assimilation.
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This issue ought to be a subject for a healthy and vigorous debate among our colleagues and students. The second major diasporic stream began about B. The third major stream, which I characterize loosely as a trading diaspora, involved the movement of traders, merchants, slaves, soldiers, and others to parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia beginning around the fifth century B.
Its pace was markedly uneven, and its texture and energy varied. Thus the brisk slave trade conducted by the Muslims to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries starting after the seventh century was not a new development but its scope and intensity were certainly unprecedented. This prolonged third diasporic stream resulted in the creation of communities of various sizes composed of peoples of African descent in India, Portugal, Spain, the Italian city-states, and elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia long before Christopher Columbus undertook his voyages across the Atlantic.
In his important study of blacks in classical antiquity, for example, Frank Snowden notes that while the "exact number of Ethiopians who entered the Greco-Roman world as a result of military, diplomatic, and commercial activity is difficult to determine. The aforementioned three diasporic streams form what I shall call the premodern African diaspora.
The fourth major African diasporic stream, and the one that is most widely studied today, is associated with the Atlantic trade in African slaves. This trade, which began in earnest in the 15th century, may have delivered as many as , Africans to various European societies and 11 to 12 million to the Americas over time. The fifth major stream began during the 19th century particularly after slavery's demise in the Americas and continues to our own times. It is characterized by the movement of Africans and peoples of African descent among, and their resettlement in, various societies.
These latter two diasporic streams, along with several substreams and the communities that emerged, constitute the modern African diaspora. Unlike the premodern diaspora, "racial" oppression and resistance to it are two of its most salient features. The five major diasporic streams or four if the first is excluded that I have identified do not constitute the only significant movements of peoples of African descent within or outside of the African continent.
Scholars, depending on their perspectives, should identify other major streams or substreams, such as that resulting from the desiccation of the Sahara between B. They should make sure, however, that these streams are not conflated in terms of their timing, scope, and nature. It should be stressed that it is these diasporic streams--or movements of specific peoples to several societies--together with the communities that they constructed, that form a diaspora. The construction of a diaspora, then, is an organic process involving movement from an ancestral land, settlement in new lands, and sometimes renewed movement and resettlement elsewhere.
The various stages of this process are interrelated, yet discrete. Although diasporas involve the movement of a particular people to several places at once or over time, a migration is usually of a more limited scope and duration, and essentially is the movement of individuals from one point to another within a polity or outside of it. The boundaries between the two processes are, to be sure, very elastic because diasporas are the products of several migratory streams. Thus, the contemporary movement of Jamaicans to England is a migration, but it also constitutes a part of the fifth diasporic stream identified in this essay.
About Trans-Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora
Diasporic communities, generally speaking, possess a number of characteristics. Regardless of their location, members of a diaspora share an emotional attachment to their ancestral land, are cognizant of their dispersal and, if conditions warrant, of their oppression and alienation in the countries in which they reside. Members of diasporic communities also tend to possess a sense of "racial," ethnic, or religious identity that transcends geographic boundaries, to share broad cultural similarities, and sometimes to articulate a desire to return to their original homeland.
No diasporic community manifests all of these characteristics or shares with the same intensity an identity with its scattered ancestral kin. In many respects, diasporas are not actual but imaginary and symbolic communities and political constructs; it is we who often call them into being. It is also useful in this context to remind ourselves that the appellation "African" was a misnomer until very recent times. Because, generally speaking, the peoples of Africa traditionally embraced an ethnic identification in contradistinction to a trans-ethnic, regional, or continentally based one, it is more historically accurate to speak of Yoruba, Akan, or Malinke diasporas for much of the period up to the late 19th century or even later.
The issue becomes even more complicated when one recognizes that individuals also moved from one society in Africa to another for a variety of reasons including being captured in war. Because an African or transethnic consciousness did not exist, the people who left their ethnic homeland were, strictly speaking, residing "abroad. Can we speak of an African diaspora before the late 19th or 20th century since the subjects of our study did not define themselves as African but as Yoruba, Wolof, Igbo, or other?
Equally important, what demographic, temporal, or other boundaries should be imposed on the concept?
Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora
Clearly, a major problem that scholars of the modern African diaspora confront is how to make a case for the contours and nature of their subject. This may not be very easy, as the preceding observations suggest. The difficulty notwithstanding, I hope to initiate a scholarly debate by attempting a definition of the modern African diaspora because it is the one that is currently receiving the most attention.
This diaspora possesses some of the characteristics that I mentioned, but as the following tentative definition implies, it has its unique features.
The modern African diaspora, at its core, consists of the millions of peoples of African descent living in various societies who are united by a past based significantly but not exclusively upon "racial" oppression and the struggles against it; and who, despite the cultural variations and political and other divisions among them, share an emotional bond with one another and with their ancestral continent; and who also, regardless of their location, face broadly similar problems in constructing and realizing themselves.
This definition rejects any notion of a sustained desire to emigrate to Africa by those of its peoples who currently live outside of that continent's boundaries, although groups such as the Rastafarians sometimes articulate such a desire. The desire to return to Africa, to be sure, was articulated by many of the enslaved who were removed from that continent, and thousands of free African Americans left for Liberia during the 19th century. Men such as Henry Highland Garnet, Henry McNeal Turner, Marcus Garvey, and others actively embraced emigration to Africa at various times but the appeal of the continent as a place to reestablish roots seems to have waned over time.
Methodologically speaking, the study of the modern African diaspora should, in my opinion, begin with the study of Africa. The African continent--the ancestral homeland--must be central to any informed analysis and understanding of the dispersal of its peoples. Not only must the programs that are designed promote an understanding of the history and nature of the variegated African cultures, but it must be recognized that the peoples who left Africa and their ethnic group, coerced or otherwise, brought their cultures, ideas, and worldviews with them as well.
Global dimensions of the African diaspora (Book, ) [iquworyqif.tk]
Africa, in all of its cultural richness and diversity, remained very much alive in the receiving societies as the various ethnic groups created new cultures and recreated their old ways as circumstances allowed. Consequently, the study of the modern African diaspora, particularly the aspect of it that is associated with the Atlantic slave trade, cannot be justifiably separated from the study of the home continent.
Scholars must be careful not to homogenize the experiences of the diverse peoples of the modern diaspora. There are obviously certain commonalities, but there are fundamental differences born of the societal context, the times, the political, economic, and "racial" circumstances, and so on. North American scholars in particular must avoid the temptation to impose paradigms that reflect their own experiences upon other areas of the diaspora. I am, in effect, suggesting that we ask different kinds of questions that will more accurately inform our understanding of the peoples of a diaspora who are simultaneously similar but yet different.
Scholars of the modern diaspora must also make a methodological distinction between studying the trajectory of a people and the trajectory of the nation-state in which they reside. In many cases, including the United States, England, and Canada, the history of marginalized blacks who occupy a minority status is not coterminous with the history of the nation-state.
The history of black America is certainly not a carbon copy of that of the larger polity.