Interrogating the Homeland-Diaspora Construct

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Contribution to Book

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Although heuristically useful, the homeland-diaspora construct is problematic. These categories provide a one-dimensional view across space and time, and therefore fail to account for the depth, robustness, and diversity evident throughout global communities. Scholars have employed these categories to understand various collectives, despite the fact that they often fail to accurately represent the conceptions of the communities under analysis. This essay looks through the lens of the Sikh tradition to make a general critique of the homeland-diaspora paradigm. I call attention to basic problems that emerge in the uncritical acceptance of this construction, and in doing so, I argue that we need to develop more historically precise and culturally nuanced frameworks that fit the specific needs of specific communities. I assert the importance of approaching this study as a process—diasporization—which offers us an opportunity to better account for the historical development of communities. I also touch on evidence from early Sikh writings that challenge the assumed universal applicability of these categories. In its broadest form, this essay aims to underline the importance of reflecting critically on the terms and categories we use to understand the world. This essay purposefully raises more questions than it answers, particularly because I hope to open new conversations, ideas, and directions for our future studies.


Michael Hawley







Publication Information

Sikh Diaspora: Theory, Agency, and Experience