Diaspora literature: An overview

Image source: TheTropicalist.press

Diaspora—“scattering” in Greek—refers to the dispersion of people from their homeland.  Diaspora literature refers to works written by authors living outside their native land, with the term identifying the work’s distinct geographic origins.  Also known as expatriate literature, it’s rooted in a sense of loss as well as alienation, emerging from migration and expatriation.

Diaspora literature centers on displacement, whether it’s forced or self-imposed, and the way the changed atmosphere spells a calamity, sense of alienation and displacement, nostalgia, existential rootlessness, and a quest of identity for the writer.  It integrates experiences whether the immigrant is a laborer, refugee, exile, or guest worker overseas.

There are a number of known diaspora writers around the world.  Ahad Ha-am is a Russian writer who immigrated to England in 1906 and lived there until 1921, with his writings concerned with the issues hounding the Jewish peoples dispersed throughout the world.  Salman Rushdie is a British novelist of Indian descent, with notable works such as The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children.  Jhumpa Lahiri hasn’t lived anywhere but America, but her fictional landscape is still partly molded by India.

Image source: Slate.com   

The Bible itself is replete with diaspora writing, such as the story of Joseph and his story of survival outside his homeland, as well as the book of Job that was likely written in the wake of the Babylonian destruction.

Diaspora writing tackles a wide range of topics but typically touches on multicultural identities, or how the writer recognizes herself through projections of “otherness”; hybridity, in which an individual’s physical and cultural self can be two separate halves of the same whole; and historical understanding, including the relationship between diverse people and the emotions handled by a migrant community.

John Eilermann from St. Louis, Missouri is a student of comparative literature.  Growing up, he fell in love with literature beginning with works of Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, and other authors of their time.  Learn more about literature on this website.

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