Making and ‘faking’ a diasporic heritage

Authored by: Marc Scully

Routledge Handbook of Diaspora Studies

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138631137
eBook ISBN: 9781315209050
Adobe ISBN:


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Diasporic heritage is not automatically conferred. To claim diasporic heritage is to disrupt associations between birthplace, nationality and citizenship (Gilroy 1997), and to proclaim political, cultural or affective allegiance to a real or imagined ‘homeland’ other than the place of current residence. However, such claims are subject to challenge and contestation. Individual claims to diasporic heritage must be rhetorically arranged around some form of ‘proof’ or justification that stands in for the more ‘natural’ association between nation and identity. While diasporic identification is fundamentally heterogenous, some common patterns can be drawn as to how such claims are made and defended, and equally how they are positioned as ‘fake’. It is my contention that ‘authenticity’ is central to understanding diaspora – not in terms of whether a transnational population may be considered an ‘authentic’ diaspora or not, but rather how individual and collective claims to diasporic status are authenticated. This focus on ‘authenticity’ can address the creative tension in the diaspora literature identified by Brubaker (2005) between boundary maintenance and boundary erosion, or by Werbner (2002) as between ethnicparochialism and cosmopolitanism. Following Werbner, I will illustrate how this tension is not just the stuff of theory, but is a live concern for those in the diaspora.

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