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The word Diaspora, from the Greek διασπορά ("dispersion"), is used in the present context for the voluntary dispersion of the Jewish people as distinct from their forced dispersion, which is treated under *Galut. As such it confines itself to Jewish settlement outside Ereẓ Israel during the periods of Jewish independence or compact settlement in their land. It therefore applies to the period of the First Temple, the Second Temple, and that subsequent to the establishment of the State of Israel. The only dispersion during the period of the First Temple of which there is definite knowledge is the Jewish settlement in Egypt referred to in Jeremiah 44. (That in Babylon following the capture of Jehoiachin in 597 b.c.e., since it was forced and was the prelude to the complete Exile after the destruction of the Temple in 586, can be classified as an exile.) By the same definition, the Jewish communities in the world at present, after the establishment of the State of Israel, constitute a Diaspora, and since that event the custom has developed of referring to them in Hebrew as the tefuẓot, the Hebrew equivalent of Diaspora, in preference to the word previously used, golah, or galut ("exile"; for the concept of exile, see *Galut). For the modern Diaspora, see Jewish *History and State of *Israel; for its demographic and statistical aspects, see *Demography, *Population, and *Vital Statistics; see contemporary periods of entries on the respective countries for the aspect of interrelation between Israel and the Jews living elsewhere.

By far the most important Diaspora during the period of the Second Temple was that of the Greco-Roman world. For the populous Babylonian Diaspora during this period, see *Babylonia.

In the Hellenistic-Roman Period

the distribution of jewish population. The existence of a Diaspora is one of the distinguishing features of the Jewish people in the Greco-Roman period. In part this Diaspora was a heritage from the preceding era; in part it was established only in the Hellenistic period with the rise of new Jewish groups as extensions of earlier ones. Among the various factors operating to enlarge the Diaspora geographically and increase it numerically were the banishments from Ereẓ Israel, political and religious pressures there, economic prospects emerging in prosperous countries such as *Egypt in the third century b.c.e., and the proselytizing movement, whose roots go back to the beginning of Second Temple times and which reached its zenith in the first century c.e, within the framework of the Roman Empire. As early as in the Hellenistic period the *Sibyl could sing of the Jewish nation "Every land is full of you, and every sea," and, in a reference to the first century b.c.e., the Greek geographer Strabo declared that it was difficult to find a place in the entire world to which the Jewish nation had not penetrated. Literary sources from the end of the Second Temple period (Philo, Acts) assert that the Jewish people had spread to all cities and lands.

The bulk of the Diaspora came under the sway of the Hellenistic and later of the Hellenistic-Roman civilization. Shaped first by the political, social, and economic changes which fashioned the character of the Mediterranean world in the period of "the balance of power" between the Hellenistic states, its development was afterward molded by the centralizing regime of the Roman Empire. Only one large Jewish group, that in Babylonia and in the countries of the Parthian Empire, was outside the sphere of Hellenistic or Roman political rule during the greater part of the period and developed its own forms of life, which in the course of time influenced Jewry as a whole. Two countries in particular bordering on Ereẓ Israel, namely Egypt and Syria (including Phoenicia), were influenced by their Jewish populations. Already in the Persian period, the Jewish inhabitants in Egypt were considerable in number. The fact that Ereẓ Israel was under the same rule at the beginning of the Hellenistic period encouraged the migration of Jews to the Nile Valley. Living in all the cities and border districts, from the capital *Alexandria in the north to Syene in the south of Upper Egypt, the Jews in Roman Egypt numbered by the first century c.e., according to Philo, a million souls. Alexandria became one of the largest Jewish centers in the world. From the beginning of the Jewish settlement in that city they had their own quarter, voluntarily established. Later they were also especially predominant in two of the city's five districts, although they were also to be found in the other three, in which they had synagogues. Other places in Lower Egypt distinguished for their Jewish populations were Schedia near Alexandria, Xenephiris, Athribis, and Nitrae, in all of which the Jews had synagogues. Particularly important was the concentration of the Jewish population in the Heliopolite nome, east of the Delta. Distinguished for its military spirit, it even erected its own temple, "the temple of Onias," headed by descendants of the high priest Onias iii. The large number of papyri discovered in the villages and towns of the district of Fayyum (Magdola, Crocodilopolis, Psenyris, Tebtunis, Berenice-Hormos, Philadelphia, Apollonias, Trikomia, Alexandrou-Nesos, etc.) afford valuable information on Jewish settlement in that area. Among the villages of Fayyum was one named Samaria (whose founders were undoubtedly immigrants from Samaria). During the whole Roman period Jews lived continuously in Oxyrhyncus. The ostraca found in excavations have shed light also on the life of the Jews in Apollinopolis Magna (Edfu) and in Thebes in Upper Egypt. The number of Jews in Egypt presumably reached its zenith in the period of the Julio-Claudian emperors. The revolt of the Jews in the days of *Trajan dealt a severe blow to the Jewish population of Egypt both in Alexandria and especially in the provincial cities and in the villages. In many places the Jews disappeared entirely, and it was only from the third century onward that they gradually began to resettle in them.

The Jewish settlement in Cyrenaica was, as it were, a direct extension of that of Egypt, having been largely under the same rule. There were considerable numbers of Jews in the principal cities – in *Cyrene, where already at the end of the Hellenistic period they constituted an important part of the city's population, and in *Berenice – as well as in the villages. In the life of the Jewish people the Jews of Cyrenaica filled a notable function and played a leading role in the revolt in the days of Trajan.

Josephus describes Syria as the country with the highest percentage of Jewish inhabitants, which is very probably on account of its proximity to Ereẓ Israel. There were particularly important Jewish centers in the capital *Antioch, in *Damascus, and in *Apamea. According to Philo, numerous Jews lived in Syria and in Asia Minor, where the settlement of Jews was greatly promoted by the policy of the Seleucid kings, whose rule extended over large areas of *Asia Minor. Thus it is known that Antiochus iii (223–187 b.c.e.) settled 2,000 Babylonian Jewish families in Phrygia and Lydia. From the period of the Roman rule at the end of the republic and the beginning of the Julio-Claudian principate there is clear evidence of the existence of Jews in most of the important cities of Asia Minor, in Adramyttium, *Pergamum, *Sardis, *Ephesus, Tralles, *Miletus, Iasus, Halicarnassus, *Laodicea, Tarsus, and very many others, as well as in the regions of *Bithynia, Pontus, and *Cappadocia. Asia Minor was undoubtedly also a homeland, or at least a transit station, for the Jews who established the Jewish center on the northern bank of the Black Sea (Panticapaeum). No grave political crisis, such as the revolt of the Jews in Egypt and Cyrenaica, overtook the Jews of Asia Minor, and so their development in the cities of Asia could continue undisturbed. There were many Jews, too, in the various islands of the eastern Mediterranean. The first Jewish settlement there was undoubtedly in *Cyprus, close as it was to the coast of Ereẓ Israel. But the war of the Jews against the island's non-Jewish inhabitants in the days of Trajan led to the temporary break in Jewish settlement on the island. Many Jews also lived in *Crete, Delos, Paros, Melos, Euboea, and in other islands.

*Greece proper, which at the end of the Hellenistic period and during that of the Roman Empire suffered from a declining population and a stagnant economy, attracted fewer Jewish immigrants than did Egypt and Asia Minor. Nevertheless, there were Jews in all the important urban centers of Greece and *Macedonia. The first mention of Jews in Greece, a reference to a Jewish freedman, appears on a third-century inscription from the city of Oropus in Boeotia. Inscriptions of the second century b.c.e. mention the freeing of Jewish slaves in Delphi. In the days of Philo, Jews lived in most of the important districts of Greece (Thessaly, Boeotia, Macedonia, Aetolia, Attica, and most of the areas of the Peloponnesus). According to the Acts of the Apostles, there were Jewish communities in Thessalonica, in the Macedonian cities of Philippi and Beroea, and in the famed Greek cities of *Athens and *Corinth. Inscriptions also attest to Jewish settlements in various places in the Peloponnesus (the district of Laconia, the city of Patrae, Tegea), in Athens, and in Thessaly. From Greece the Jewish settlements spread northward to the Balkan peninsula (Stobi) and reached Pannonia.

A special position was held by the Jewish settlement in Italy and principally *Rome, which became the political capital of the entire Mediterranean world. As early as the second century b.c.e. Jews were found in Rome, from which they were expelled in 139 b.c.e. because of their attempts to propagate the Jewish religion there. However, even before Pompey's conquest of Jerusalem (63 b.c.e.) their number had increased in Rome, while the Jewish captives brought to the country by Pompey and subsequent Roman conquerors hastened the process of Jewish settlement in Italy. The Jewish slaves who, on being freed, had become Roman citizens constituted a not insignificant factor in the life of the capital. By 59 b.c.e. in his speech in defense of Flaccus, the governor of Asia, Cicero was complaining of the decisive Jewish influence in the assemblies of the Roman masses. *Julius Caesar allowed them to maintain their position, and under *Augustus and his successors the Jewish population in Rome numbered thousands and possibly even tens of thousands. The administrative measures taken by Tiberius and *Claudius were ineffective in hindering Jewish settlement in the capital, and they remained a permanent factor in the life of Rome throughout the whole period of the empire. Certain areas in the city were especially noted for their concentrations of Jewish inhabitants. Gradually Jewish settlements also arose in other cities in Italy, chiefly in the south, in the port of Puteoli, in Pompeii, in the cities of *Sicily, and in the course of time in northern Italy too. More slowly Jewish groups came into existence in the other provinces of the Latin west (*Gaul, *Spain, and *Germany). Of great importance was the Jewish settlement in *Africa and especially in *Carthage.

Special features distinguished the development of Jewry in the Parthian kingdom which included the Babylonian Jewish population and its extensions in Persia, Media, Elam, etc. This Jewry was not only ancient but extremely numerous, particularly in Babylonia proper, where in some regions and cities the Jews constituted the majority of the inhabitants. The centers of Jewish settlement in Babylonia at the end of Second Temple times were in the cities of *Nehardea and *Nisibis. There was also a considerable Jewish population in the large city of Seleucia on the Tigris, where the Jews were the counterpoise between the eastern-Syrian and the Greek inhabitants. Through the proselytization of the rulers of *Adiabene in the first century c.e. the Jewish population in the region of the Euphrates was greatly augmented.


The occupations of the Jews in the countries of the Hellenistic-Roman Diaspora were varied, and certainly they were not confined to only a few specified occupations, as was the case in the Middle Ages, and no restrictions were placed on them. In Judea, the Jews had been farmers from the earliest days, and, while the cultivation of the soil remained an important occupation of the Jews in the countries of the Diaspora, they also engaged in other pursuits. Numerous papyri in particular furnish considerable evidence of the part played by the Jews in the *agriculture of Egypt. Among the Jewish agriculturists in Ptolemaic Egypt were "royal farmers," tenant farmers, military settlers, and agricultural workers. There were also Jewish peasants and shepherds. Other documents show that there was a Jewish family of potters in "a Syrian village" in the Fayyum district, and also a Jewish weaver in Upper Egypt in the second century b.c.e. Jewish officials were prominent in government service, occupying positions in the police force, in the administration of the government banks, and particularly in the collection of taxes.

A similar diversity characterized the economic life of the Jews in Roman Egypt. In Roman Alexandria there were wealthy Jews, bankers with interterritorial connections, important merchants, and ship owners who filled a notable role in the Egyptian, and in the entire Mediterranean, economy. However, alongside these, Jewish artisans and poor Jews were no less prominent. The Jewish artisans in Roman Alexandria engaged in various trades, and even occupied places in the large synagogue according to their occupations. Among the Alexandrian Jews, some owned land in various places whereas others had difficulty in making a livelihood, as can be seen from the papyri of Abusir el Meleq. This picture is confirmed by documents relating to the provincial towns. Thus in Roman Egypt some Jews owned land, some engaged in cultivating the soil and in rearing sheep, some in transport on land or along the Nile where they loaded cargo for various parts of Egypt, while others were artisans. Only in military service and in the collection of taxes was there a decline in the activities of the Jews as compared with the preceding period, as a result of general changes in these spheres following the Roman conquest. More or less the same state of affairs existed in the other countries of the Mediterranean world. In Cyrenaica there were rich Jews who, after the Jewish War in 70 c.e., aroused the jealousy of the Roman governor; but there were also poor Jews, who were apparently adversely affected by the agricultural policy of the Roman regime in *Libya. There were likewise rich Jews in Puteoli and on the island of Melos. The vast sums of money which flowed to the Temple in Jerusalem from all parts of the Diaspora attest in some measure to the existence of wealthy circles among the Jews. It is however important to point out that at least in Rome itself at the zenith of the imperial period it was chiefly the poor and mendicant Jews, and not the rich ones, who attracted the attention of those who derided Jewry.

jewish life in the hellenistic kingdoms

In the period preceding the annexation to Rome of the Hellenistic kingdoms there was no uniformity in the political fortunes of the Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora, since they lived under the rule of various states. Yet several general lines in the policy toward the Jews had already taken shape. Among these the most prominent were the toleration of the Jewish religion shown by the various Hellenistic kings, the right enjoyed by the Jews to organize themselves in their own communities, and the permission to maintain contact with the religious-national center in Jerusalem, which found expression in the contribution of the half *shekel to the Temple. Where their number permitted, such as in Egypt, the Jews also played an active part in the general political life of the country. Egypt is, in fact, the only land on which there is detailed information about the relations between the Hellenistic regime and the Jews. *Ptolemyii Philadelphus, the most renowned of the Ptolemaic kings in the third century b.c.e., was well disposed toward them. The Jewish slaves taken captive during his father's rule of Ereẓ Israel were freed, and Jewish tradition even ascribed the inception of the Septuagint to his initiative. Some deterioration occurred apparently during the reign of Ptolemy Philopator (222–204 b.c.e.), due both to the situation in Ereẓ Israel and to the king's religious policy in Alexandria itself; but the conflict was short-lived, and the political influence of the Jews in Ptolemaic Egypt reached its summit in the second century b.c.e. More than all the Ptolemaic kings, Ptolemy vi Philometor (180–145 b.c.e.) showed especial friendship toward the Jews. In his days the stream of emigration from Judea to Egypt increased as a result of the pressure of *Antiochus Epiphanes. Ptolemy Philometor was on intimate terms with the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher *Aristobulus, and prominent among his army commanders were men of Jewish origin. Well disposed to *Oniasiv, the son of the Jerusalem High Priest Onias iii, the king permitted him to build a temple in Egypt. The Jews in "the land of Onias" became in his time an organized military body and a not insignificant factor in Egyptian politics. After the death of Ptolemy Philometor, the Jewish army appeared in Alexandria to help *Cleopatraii in her struggle against her rival for the throne, Ptolemy Euergetes ii (Ptolemy Physcon). As a result, the general position of the Egyptian Jews deteriorated for a time at the beginning of the rule of Ptolemy Physcon (145–116 b.c.e.). However, due to revolts and riots, the Egyptian kingdom was unable to forego the help of the Jews, and Ptolemy Physcon did not long persist in his anti-Jewish policy. There is reason to assume that an appreciable number of Jews were granted Alexandrian citizenship by this king when his relations with the Greek population deteriorated. At the end of the second century b.c.e., in the struggle between Cleopatra iii and Ptolemy Lathyrus, her son and rival for the throne, the Jews supported the queen, and Hilkiah and Hananiah, the sons of Onias iv, even commanded her army in the operations outside the borders of Egypt. At the beginning of the first century (88 b.c.e.) the Jews in Alexandria were persecuted. When Gabinius invaded Egypt the Jews on the frontier assisted the Roman army, as they also did when the army, which had come to extricate Caesar from dire straits in Alexandria, reached the gates of the country (47 b.c.e.). Their actions were undertaken under the influence of Hyrcanus ii and Antipater, the rulers of Judea, who were friendly toward the Romans.

roman rule

Rome's domination of the entire Mediterranean world led to the concentration of the bulk of the Jewish people under homogeneous rule, so that the development of the various Jewish settlements followed a more uniform political pattern. The Roman regime, faced with the need to lay down a comprehensive approach to the Jewish people, based its policy on showing toleration toward the Jewish religion and doing nothing either directly or indirectly to its detriment. This Roman attitude stemmed from several factors:

(1) it was the prevailing Roman policy to refrain as far as possible from affronting the different religions in the empire;

(2) Roman conservatism tended to maintain the existing situation in the various states comprising the empire, and the Jewish community, from the period of the Hellenistic kingdoms, had been an element with its own status and claims, and toleration toward it was an established principle even before the Roman conquest;

(3) the important role played by the Jews in the life and economy of the empire and the comparatively high percentage of the Jewish population among the peoples of the empire, particularly in the east;

(4) the great unity prevailing among the various settlements of the Jews wherever they were, so that any serious attack on one of the great centers of Jewish population produced echoes in other Jewish groups;

(5) secondary factors, such as the ties of Herod and other rulers of his dynasty, and also some individual Jews, with the Roman Empire, on occasion influenced the steps taken by the governors;

(6) primarily the realization that the alternative facing Rome was either toleration or persecution, for the loyalty of the Jews to their religion was well-known, as was their readiness to suffer martyrdom for it. An attack on the Jewish religion was bound to provoke the Jews to revolt, and the emperors' tolerant policy toward the Jews constituted no injury to the empire.

This toleration found expression in several spheres: in the right granted to the Jews to organize themselves in their own institutions and to establish an autonomous system of internal administration and justice, to refrain from taking part in what they regarded as idolatry, and to be exempt from duties involving a transgression of Jewish religious precepts. The permission to refrain from idolatry also included the right to abstain from taking part in emperor worship, the chief expression of the loyalty of the peoples of the empire, abstention from which was generally regarded as treason. For this worship the Jews found a substitute by offering sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem for the well-being of the emperor and by prayers on his behalf recited in the various synagogues in Ereẓ Israel and in the Diaspora. Dispensation from duties conflicting with the Jewish religion included the right of Jews who were Roman citizens to be exempted from military service, since this precluded the observance of the Sabbath and other commandments. The architects of the defined Roman policy toward the Jews were Julius Caesar and Augustus, both of whom issued a series of orders to preserve the rights of the Jews and ensure their religious freedom. Caesar explicitly excluded the organizations of the Jews from the prohibition of maintaining collegia "except the ancient and legitimate ones," and the representatives of the Roman regime in the islands of the Mediterranean Sea and in Asia Minor acted within the area of their rule in accordance with Caesar's approach.

After Caesar's death, the two sides in the Roman civil war virtually competed with each other in granting privileges to the Jews. The consul Dolabella, ally of Mark Antony, confirmed the right of the Jews of Asia Minor to religious freedom and exemption from military service, and made his action known to the authorities of Ephesus, the most important city in Asia Minor. Marcus Brutus, one of Caesar's assassins, adopted a similar course.

Augustus, in particular, set an example to succeeding Roman rulers. Agrippa intervened to protect the rights of the Jews against the claims of the inhabitants of the Greek cities in Asia Minor, and Augustus instituted a general arrangement whereby the Jews were permitted to send money to the Temple in Jerusalem. Any attack on this money was regarded as sacrilege. This arrangement remained in force until the destruction of the Second Temple. In general, the framework of the relations with the Jews, laid down at the beginning of the Julio-Claudian principate, was preserved during the existence of the pagan Roman Empire. The Julio-Claudian emperors, from Tiberius onward, remained faithful to the policy of Augustus. In fact, it was only during the short reign of Gaius *Caligula (37–41 c.e.) that this policy was seriously challenged. Taking his divinity seriously, the insane emperor demanded of his Jewish subjects the full observance of emperor worship. In Alexandria the Greek enemies of the Jews took advantage of the new situation to incite riots against the Jews, the first "pogrom" in the history of the Roman Empire. Caligula's attempt to introduce his image into the Temple in Jerusalem almost led to an uprising of the entire Jewish nation. Due to the intervention of Agrippa i the immediate threat against the Temple was removed and the danger of a revolt passed, particularly after Caligula was murdered by conspirators in Rome, but the episode left a turbid sediment in the relations between the Roman regime and the Jews. At the beginning of Claudius' reign the riots in Alexandria were renewed, whereupon Jews from Ereẓ Israel and from the provincial towns of Egypt flocked to the assistance of their coreligionists. The intervention of the emperor restored the status quo, which remained undisturbed until the Jewish War. There were echoes of this war in the larger cities of the Diaspora. In Alexandria the riots between Jews and Greeks broke out again, and the Roman army under the command of the governor, Tiberius Julius Alexander, massacred numbers of Jews in the city. Difficulties were also placed in the way of the Jews in the cities of Syria: there were riots against the Jews of Damascus, and the non-Jewish inhabitants of Antioch attempted, after the destruction of the Second Temple, to deprive the Jews of their rights but were prevented from doing so by Titus' opposition. In Egypt and Cyrenaica, the remnants of the freedom fighters of Ereẓ Israel who had escaped to these countries tried to incite new riots, but their attempt was foiled by the opposition of the Jewish upper classes and the leading instigators of the revolt were executed by the Roman authorities. Nonetheless, wealthy Jews, too, suffered, especially in Cyrenaica, and many of them lost their lives in the brutal acts of the Roman governor there. In general, the destruction of the Second Temple turned Rome into a ruthless regime and an evil kingdom in the eyes of the Jews everywhere. The humiliating position to which the people had sunk in the Roman Empire found legal expression in the obligation imposed on all the Jews to pay, instead of the half shekel which they had contributed to the Temple before its destruction, a tax of two drachmas to the treasury of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus ("the Jews' tax"). This tax, collected with particular severity under the emperor *Domitian (81–96 c.e.), continued to be an aggravating and humiliating burden on the Jews until the fourth century.

the trajanic revolt and its aftermath

The greatest crisis in the relations between the Roman Empire and the Jews of the Diaspora was the revolt in the days of Trajan. Encompassing a large part of the Jewish settlements in Mesopotamia and in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea (in particular Egypt, Cyrenaica, and Cyprus), it was, in effect, the most dangerous agitation against the Roman regime in the east since the wars of Mithridates at the end of the republican period, for it jeopardized the very existence of Roman rule in the eastern lands. Various factors combined to cause the eruption. These were the hatred of Rome in consequence of the destruction of the Temple and of the humiliation suffered by the Jews, the persistent tension between the Jews and the Greek inhabitants of the large cities such as Alexandria, and eschatological-messianic expectations. The revolt continued for several years (115–117 c.e.). Apparently Cyrenaica served at first as a base of prime importance for the rebels, who were led by Andreas (or Lucuas). The war assumed large proportions. Thousands of the non-Jewish inhabitants of the country were killed, and extremely serious damage was caused to the temples and public buildings of Cyrene as well as to the entire economy of the province. In Egypt the Jewish uprising embraced all the Nile country, from Alexandria in the north to Thebes in the south. Fierce battles were fought in the capital, in the villages, and in the various provincial towns, and many years later (199–200 c.e.) the victory over the Jews was still celebrated at Oxyrhyncus in Middle Egypt. Papyri tell of the enormous dimensions of the material damage and the gravity of the war. Only after full-scale battles, in which considerable forces of Roman legions fought alongside the local population, was the revolt crushed. In Cyprus, too, a ruthless war was waged, at the outset of which the Jews, under the leadership of Artemion, massacred large numbers of the island's non-Jewish inhabitants and destroyed the city of Salamis. When the revolt was finally quelled, the death penalty was decreed against any Jew who set foot on the island. The riots in Mesopotamia were connected with Trajan's wars against the Parthians, and no direct connection has been established between these riots and the Jewish revolt in Cyrenaica and Egypt, the actions of the Jews in Mesopotamia being essentially part of the uprisings of the peoples of the east consequent on the Roman invasion of the Parthian kingdom. In any event, the Jews suffered severely from the riots, and the emperor's representative, the commander Lusius *Quietus, massacred many of the Jewish people in the region. The Jewish revolt in the days of Trajan undermined to a great extent the existence of the Jewish communities in Egypt and in Cyrenaica and for a long time put an end to the settlement of Jews in Cyprus. As a result of the revolt there was a certain decrease in the Jewish population in the east of the empire, the material basis of their existence was shaken, and their political and social influence declined.

During the reigns of Trajan and his successor *Hadrian (117–138 c.e.), suppressor of the Bar Kokhba revolt, the history of the Jews in the pagan Roman Empire reached its nadir. However, from the days of *Antoninus Pius (138–161 c.e.) a gradual improvement took place in their position. There were no more Jewish revolts in the lands of the Diaspora nor punitive actions by the imperial regime, and the Jews once more acquired a strong position in the economic life of the empire. Antoninus Pius permitted the Jews to practice circumcision, which had been forbidden under Hadrian, although with the aim of putting a stop to proselytization he prohibited them from circumcising non-Jews. This prohibition continued also under the emperor *Septimius Severus (193–211 c.e.) but in general the Severian period was marked by a reconciliation between the Jews and the imperial regime. The rights of the Jews were assured; the nesi'im of the family of Hillel exercised great influence over the Jewish nation throughout the Roman Empire and were officially recognized by the authorities. Alexander Severus (222–235 c.e.) was favorably disposed toward the Jewish religion, while under *Caracalla (212 c.e.) the masses of the Jews in the empire, like its other peoples, became in every respect Roman citizens. These more favorable relations between the Jewish people and the empire continued, in effect, until the beginning of the fourth century, when Christianity became dominant. The Jews certainly suffered during the political and economic crisis which affected all the inhabitants of the empire in the third century, from the frequent changes of rulers and the civil wars, the barbarian invasions, inflation, and the heavy burden of taxation and exactions, but under no circumstances did they suffer because they were Jews. They had become an accepted part of the society of the Roman Empire, although there is no evidence at this time of political activity by the Jews in the Diaspora.

organization of the jewish communities

In their various places of residence the Jews had the right of self-organization, recognized by the Hellenistic and Roman authorities. This measure of *autonomy was an expression of their religious freedom, and the background to promoting the Jewish religion and to the continued existence of the Jewish people in the Diaspora. Different names were given to the Jewish communities in different cities. At times the terms denoting them were taken from the general organizational terminology (such as the name politeuma), at others they were called simply "Jews," at others again they were designated "synagogue." Not only the name but also the form of organization differed among the Jews in the various cities and countries. In Alexandria, for example, as early as the Ptolemaic period, the Jews had established a unified organization, a community known as a politeuma, led by the elders. At the beginning of the Roman period the Alexandrian community was headed by a president (ethnarch) who enjoyed an independent status and supervised the juridical arrangements in the community. During the reign of Augustus, apparently, certain changes took place in the organization of the community, when the authority passed from the ethnarch to the *gerousia, consisting of scores of members. In the city of Berenice, too, as shown by an inscription, the Jews were organized in a politeuma, headed by nine archons. In Rome the Jews were organized around their synagogues, but no proof has yet been discovered of a central organization embracing all the Jews in the city. Neither in the Hellenistic nor in the Roman imperial period did the Jews of the Diaspora have central, countrywide organizations. To the extent that there was a unified leadership for all the Jews of the empire, it was supplied by the Jewish rulers in Ereẓ Israel and the high priests, while these existed, and afterward by the nesi'im and the Sanhedrin at Jabneh and in Galilee. In marked contrast to the picture among Hellenistic-Roman Jewry was the Babylonian Jews' more stable organization, which had hereditary leadership in the person of the exilarch, who traced his descent from the Davidic dynasty, was accorded official recognition by the Parthian regime, and had extremely wide-ranging authority.

The communities of the Greco-Roman world exercised fairly extensive authority, the most important aspect of which was the right to maintain a system of battei din with autonomous jurisdiction not only in matters of worship and religion but also in civil cases. However, from papyri it is evident that in various places, even in Alexandria itself where there was a developed system of Jewish jurisdiction, the Jews nevertheless had occasion to turn to non-Jewish law courts. Hence recourse to Jewish autonomous jurisdiction in civil cases was not compulsory. A community also had the right to hold property as a corporate legal body and to collect money from its members, since various expenses, either current or exceptional, had to be met by the communities. The current expenditure included primarily that connected with maintaining religious services, the synagogues, and other Jewish public institutions, such as schools and cemeteries. One of the characteristic features of the community was supplying the needs of the local poor from a charity fund. Exceptional expenditure comprised that associated with building new synagogues, sending delegations to the authorities, ransoming captives, and so on. Here the Jewish community was often assisted by the generosity of individuals.

One of the grave problems requiring adjustment was the relation between Jewish self-organization and the institutions of the Greek cities in the Hellenistic-Roman east organized in the form of a polis. Since in any event not all the inhabitants of a city were its citizens, there are no grounds for assuming that all the Jews were citizens of the Hellenistic cities in which they lived. Nor was the position identical in all cities, and in any case everywhere there were Jews with a differing civic status. At least some members of the first groups of Jews who settled in a city at the time of its establishment undoubtedly enjoyed civic rights; thus in Alexandria there were Jews who were "Macedonians." In general, however, most of the Jews who arrived in the Greek cities were presumably either foreigners or enjoyed a special status laid down for the Jewish members of the politeuma. Where there were special arrangements with the Hellenistic kings and the Roman emperors, the practical consequences of the status granted to Jews was no less congenial than the grant of civic rights by the Greek city itself, and this status could even be tantamount to equal civic rights. Generally the position in this respect was flexible. At times the Greek cities tried to deprive the Jews of the rights granted to them by the kings and confirmed by the emperors. On the other hand, there were also attempts by Jews, mainly by those of the upper classes, to infiltrate into the body of the citizens in such places and at such times as seemed to them expedient. It must also be noted that those men whose activities caused them to rise in the scale of the municipal leadership or in the administrative hierarchy of the Hellenistic kingdoms or the Roman Empire very often severed themselves, to a greater or lesser extent, from the Jewish world and made concessions to idolatry. Indeed the Jews who in those years attained prominence actually forsook Judaism, such as Dositheus b. Drimylus in Ptolemaic Egypt, or Tiberius Julius Alexander, Philo's nephew, who became the governor of Egypt. In the Roman Empire the special citizenship of the Greek cities gradually lost its value; all Jews became Roman citizens, and in the various cities of the empire Jews also became members of the municipal councils, a position which by then was less of an honor than a heavy financial burden.

links with ereẒ israel

In the days of the Second Temple, as also after its destruction, the Jews of the Diaspora maintained close ties with Ereẓ Israel which found expression in several ways. Many Diaspora Jews fulfilled the commandment of going on pilgrimage to the Temple, and during the festivals Jews from all parts of the world, from Parthia and Media in the east to Italy in the west, could be found in Jerusalem. Some came to study Torah in the renowned schools, as did, for example, the apostle Paul, who studied under Rabban Gamaliel the Elder. This situation also continued after the destruction of the Temple. The greatest scholars of Babylonian Jewry came to study in the academies of Ereẓ Israel; some settling and becoming active there, while others, returning to Babylonia, made that country a great spiritual center. Among the Jews of the Diaspora who settled permanently in Ereẓ Israel were some who shaped the character of Jewish society in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period, the most prominent of these being the families of Boethus and Phiabi, houses of high priests whose members had immigrated from Egypt, and *Bet Hillel and the *Benei Bathyra, whose roots lay in the Babylonian Diaspora.

Material support from the Diaspora to Jerusalem consisted primarily of the half shekel contributed to the Temple. This money was sent by Jews and proselytes, not only from the Roman Empire but also from eastern Jewry under Parthian rule. The Jews of Babylonia sent their half shekels to Nehardea and Nisibis, from where a caravan, accompanied by many thousands of Jews to defend it against possible attack by brigands, transported the money to Jerusalem. Wealthy Jews in Alexandria also made liberal contributions to enhance the outward splendor of the Temple. During the years following the destruction of the Second Temple the Jews of the Diaspora continued their financial support of the patriarchate. Important, too, was the political assistance which the Diaspora rendered to the Jews of Ereẓ Israel. As early as in the days of Alexander Yannai, the intervention of Hananiah and Hilkiah, Jewish commanders in the Ptolemaic army, was a prime factor in the development of military events in Ereẓ Israel, where the Jews derived encouragement from the large numbers and steady loyalty of the Jews in the Diaspora during the Roman Empire.

culture in the greco-roman diaspora

Although the Jewish Diaspora gave rise to considerable spiritual creativity, only a small portion of the literary productions have been preserved. They were written mainly in Greek, which in the Hellenistic period had become the principal language of the Jews of the Roman Empire outside Ereẓ Israel. The characteristic feature of these works is that they are not Greek literature produced by authors of Jewish origin, but Jewish literature written in Greek, for Jewry. Jewish history and problems are the central themes, and not the subjects typical of Greek literature. Whether it chiefly aimed at satisfying the internal needs of Jewish society or whether it was partially of an apologetic nature, intended for external purposes, it must, restrained though it sometimes is, be regarded as polemical literature. In form, however, Jewish-Hellenistic literature adopted most of the types characteristic of Greek literary productions, and among its representatives were historians, philosophers, and dramatic and epic poets. In the Hellenistic-Roman period very few authors of Jewish origin achieved fame in general Greek works unrelated to Jewry. Among these was, apparently, *Caecilius of Calacte in Sicily, an author and literary critic who was a contemporary of Augustus. Only gradually and at a later period did Jewish names begin to appear in the fields of general medicine and science, literature and art. Most of the Jewish-Greek writers were from Egypt, but other places, too, such as Cyrene (where the historian Jason of *Cyrene lived), participated in these productions. The influence of Jewish-Hellenistic literature on the development of later Jewry was scant and it became generally known chiefly through the channels of the Christian Church.


Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19093/4), 1–188; M. Radin, The Jews among the Greeks and Romans (1915); A. Causse, Les dispersés d'Israël (1929); E.G. Kraeling, Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri (1953); A. Schalit, in: jqr, 50 (1960), 289–318; H.J. Leon, Jews of Ancient Rome (1960); I. Ben-Zvi, in: Eretz Israel, 6 (1961), 130–48; V. Tcherik-over, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959); idem, Ha-Yehudim ve-ha-Yevanim ba-Tekufah ha-Hellenistit (1963); idem; Ha-Yehudim be-Mizrayim ba-Tekufah ha-Hellenistit-ha-Romit le-Or ha-Papirologyah (19632), Eng. Summary; idem, in: jjs, 14 (1963), 1–32; Juster, Juifs; Tcherikover, Corpus; Frey, Corpus; Neusner, Babylonia.

[Menahem Stern]


views updated May 11 2018





Diaspora takes its name from the ancient Greek dispersion, meaning to scatter, and, in the past, has been most closely associated with the settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside Palestine after the Babylonian exile (Merriam-Webster 2004, p. 345). For historians and social scientists, the concept embodies an assumption of forced dispersal, but also a shared identity organized around a mythic homeland, and the belief in a massive return (Akenson 1995, pp. 378379). The creation of Israel, a real nation, did little to diminish this association, and the conflicts surrounding Israels expansion in the region still generate much discussion about the ongoing victimization of the Jewish people (Morehouse, pp. 78; Cohen 1997).


The next significant groups associated with the diaspora concept are those that form the African diaspora. Similar to ancient and modern-day Jews, the scattering of African-descended people owes its origins to the coercive systems of colonialism, slavery, and imperialism that resulted in the forced migration of thousands of Africans to the New World, and later involuntary migration. For newly Christianized African slaves and their descendants, the story of Jewish displacement held special appeal, especially the belief in the return home. Marcus Garvey (18871940), founder in 1917 of the United Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), seized upon the diaspora desire to return home. He spearheaded a Back-to-Africa movement that had strong financial support, although the Black Star Line he built was intended to promote commerce between African Americans and Africa rather than return people to the land of their origins.

With such a strong symbolic connection among Christian blacks to the injustices that Jews had endured across time and space and their belief in a mythic homeland, it is not surprising that black scholars would seize upon the diaspora concept in their work. According to Brent Hayes Edwards, this concept of diaspora is taken up at a particular conjuncture in black scholarly discourse to do a particular kind of epistemological work (2001, p. 46). That work, as described by W. E. B. Du Bois (18681963), was an activist-scholarly agenda aimed at bringing intellectual understanding and co-operation among all groups of Negro descent in order to bring about at the earliest possible time the industrial and spiritual emancipation of the Negro people (1933, p. 247).

An interest in linking the scattered population of New World people to their African homeland is central to the ideas and planning that produced the 1900 Pan African Congress, organized by Henry Sylvester Williams (18691911), and the subsequent Pan-African congresses in 1919, 1921, 1923, 1927, 1945, and 1974 organized by Du Bois and others. But most scholars studying the history of the African diaspora credit George Shepperson with joining African to diaspora (Alpers 2001, p. 4) in his 1965 paper, The African Abroad or the African Diaspora, for the International Congress of African Historians: Diaspora versus Migration. Seventeen years later, the organizer of the panel on which Shepperson presented his paper, Joseph Harris, would go on to edit one of the seminal texts on the topic, Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora. His classic definition would shape how generations of scholars interpreted the concept:

The African diaspora concept subsumes the following: the global dispersion (voluntary and involuntary) of Africans throughout history; the emergence of a cultural identity abroad based on origin and social condition; and the psychological or physical return to the homeland, Africa. Thus viewed, the African diaspora assumes the character of a dynamic, continuous, and complex phenomenon stretching across time, geography, class and gender. (Harris [1982] 1993, pp. 3-4)


While the use of diaspora as social form, as type of consciousness, as mode of cultural production (Vertovec 1997, p. 277278), as paradigm (Hamilton 1990), or as interpretive framework (Drake 1991; Gilroy 1993; Hall 1990) has grown in popularity in cultural studies, history, and the social sciences, it has also generated much controversy. Some scholars, such as Donald Akenson, argue for a degree of skepticism when employing the concept. He asserts that its most pristine application is to modern Jews, and anything else leads to imprecision: That is why, were we to be master of our vocabulary, diaspora would be a term limited only to the ancient Hebrews and their descendents, the modern Jews. To use the word diaspora even as a metaphor for other groups is to replace a precise connotation with a fuzzy one (Akenson 1995, p. 379). Steven Vertovec agrees, and argues that the current overuse and under-theorization of the notion of diaspora among academics, transnational intellectuals and community leaders alikewhich sees the term become a loose reference conflating categories such as immigrants, guest-workers, ethnic and racial minorities, refugees, expatriates and travelersthreatens the terms descriptive usefulness (Vertovec 1997, p. 277).

Östen Wahlbeck counters by asserting that it is the new application of an old concept that produces new understandings of globalization and transnationalism:

In the 1990s, migration researchers have used this old concept for a variety of new purposes. Instead of studying international migration, the focus is often on transnational diasporas. I propose that the concept of diaspora, understood as transnational social organization relating both to the country of origin and the country of exile, can give a deeper understanding of the social reality in which refugees live. (Wahlbeck 2002, pp. 221222)

Stuart Hall offers another notion of diaspora that challenges traditional views:

Diaspora does not refer to those scattered tribes whose identity can only be secured in relation to some sacred homeland to which they must at all costs return. The diaspora experience as I intend it here is defined, not by essence or purity, but by the recognition of a necessary heterogeneity, diversity; by a conception of identity which lives with and through, not despite, difference; by hybridity. (Hall 1990, p. 235)

Despite these new ways of conceptualizing diaspora and the debates over the use of diaspora to account for so many diverse forms of movement by groups of people across time and space and for varied reasons, it remains a powerful and useful concept for history and the social sciences.

SEE ALSO African Diaspora; Chinese Diaspora; Du Bois, W. E. B.; East Indian Diaspora; Ethnicity; Hall, Stuart; Jewish Diaspora; Migration; Nationalism and Nationality; Palestinian Diaspora; PanAfrican Congresses; PanAfricanism


Akenson, Donald Harman. 1995. The Historiography of English-Speaking Canada and the Concept of Diaspora: A Sceptical Appreciation. Canadian Historical Review 76 (3): 377-409.

Alpers, Edward. 2001. Defining the African Diaspora. Paper presented to the Center for Comparative Social Analysis Workshop. October 21.

Cohen, Robin. 1997. Global Diaspora: An Introduction. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Drake, St. Clair. 1991. Black Folk Here and There: An Essay in History and Anthropology. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Du Bois, W. E. B. 1933. Pan-Africa and New Racial Philosophy. Crisis 40: 247262.

Edwards, Brent Hayes. 2001. The Uses of Diaspora. Social Texts 66 19 (1): 4573.

Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hall, Stuart. 1990. Cultural Identity and Diaspora. In Identity, Community, Culture, Difference, ed. Jonathan Rutherford, 222237. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Hamilton, Ruth Simms. 1990. Creating a Paradigm and Research Agenda for Comparative Studies of the Worldwide Dispersion of African Peoples. East Lansing: African Diaspora Research Project, Michigan State University.

Harris, Joseph E., ed. [1982] 1993. Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Howard University Press.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2004. Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA: Author.

Miller, Ivor. 2004. Introduction. Contours 2 (3): 141156.

Morehouse, Maggi M. nd. The African Diaspora: An Investigation of the Theories and Methods Employed when Categorizing and Identifying Transnational Communities. http://people.cohums.ohiostate.edu/avorgbedor1/diaspmo.pdf

Vertovec, Stephen. 1997. Three Meanings of Diaspora, Exemplified among South Asian Religions. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies 6 (3): 277299.

Wahlbeck, Östen. 2002. The Concept of Diaspora as an Analytical Tool in the Study of Refugee Communities. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 28 (2): 221238.

Irma McClaurin


views updated May 08 2018


DIASPORA. The term "diaspora" was first used to describe the shared experience of the Jewish peoplesexperience of exile and displacement, but also of continuing (some would say strengthening) connection and identification. Etymologically, "diaspora" derives from Greek dia ('through') and speirein ('to sow, scatter'). The word is used more broadly to refer to the cultural connections maintained by a group of people who have been dispersed or who have migrated around the globe. Each distinct "diasporic group" or "community" is a composite of many journeys to different parts of the world, occurring over very different timescales. The experiences of particular subgroups can therefore vary considerablyto the extent that some writers argue it is meaningless to talk of shared identities and experiences of, for example, "the South Asian diaspora," at the global level. Avtar Brah's book Cartographies of Diaspora provides a detailed discussion of the complex history and uses of the concept.

A key characteristic of diasporas is that a strong sense of connection to a homeland is maintained through cultural practices and ways of life. As Brah reminds us, this "homeland" might be imaginary rather than real, and its existence need not be tied to any desire to "return" home. The maintenance of these kinds of cultural connections can in some cases provoke both nostalgic and separatist tendencies. The focus here is on the place of cooking and eating among the enduring habits, rituals, and everyday practices that are collectively used to sustain a shared sense of diasporic cultural identity, in recognition that culinary culture has an important part to play in diasporic identifications.

Diasporic Foodscapes

Among the everyday cultural practices routinely used to maintain (and in some cases enhance or even reinvent) diasporic identities, food is commonly of central importance. There are a number of reasons for this. First, food traditions and habits are comparatively portable: groups that migrate around the world often carry with them elements of the diet and eating habits of the "homeland." Indeed, the migrations of foods can be used to track the past movements of people, a cornerstone of research into foodways and foodscapes. Every nation's diet therefore bears the imprint of countless past immigrations. Second, foodways are adaptable: While migrations can map the movements of ingredients, foodstuffs, or methods of preparation into new habitats unchanged, they also tell tales of adaptation, substitution, and indigenization. As people and their cuisines move, they also change to suit local conditions. Ghassan Hage's research with Lebanese migrants in Australia provides a simple illustration. In his essay "At Home in the Entrails of the West," based on interviews with Lebanese migrants to the Parramatta area of Sydney, Hage reports on this process of adaptation and substitution. One of his respondents talks about using peanut butter in Lebanese dishes in place of tahini, which was not at the time available in Australia. (In fact, when tahini later became available, the respondent admits to craving peanut butter.) Over time, this reshaping of ingredients and cooking methods often leads to a reshaping of diasporic culinary cultures, such that the dishes sometimes bear little resemblance to the original version. Comparing the same dishes among diasporic groups in different countries (say, the Chinese in the United States and in the United Kingdom) makes this clear, as does comparing diasporic versions of dishes with those served "back home."

This mobility and adaptability assures that food habits are usually maintained (even while they are transformed) among diasporic groups. Occasionally entire culinary cultures may be preserved. More often, "traditional" foods are maintained only in particular symbolic meals or dishes. For example, the small community of Russian Molokans in the United States perpetuates the rituals of preparing and sharing formal community dinners, or obedy (as reported by Willard B. Moore in "Metaphor and Changing Reality"). Alternatively, a particular dish can be singled out as embodying and preserving diasporic identity, as in the case of the ghormeh-sabzi, a stew eaten by Iranian immigrants in central England. This dish has particular significance as a way to reconnect with Iranian culture, tradition, and beliefs. A detailed discussion of the place of ghormeh-sabzi can be found in Lynn Harbottle's essay, "'Bastard' Chicken or Ghormeh-sabzi? " Harbottle's respondents report that they had to make compromises in their families' diets, allowing some Western dishes onto the table, even though they were generally wary of losing their cultural identity through Westernization. However, they expressed health concerns about the inferiority of the food in England compared with their diet back in Iran, and were keen to maintain the cultural and religious significance of food habits and pass them on to future generations. (These habits were mainly connected with their Shi'ite faith and the consumption of halal ingredients in accordance with Islamic dietary law.) In some cases, this led to the transformation of some staples of contemporary English cuisine, such as pizza or burgers, to realign them with Shi'ite custom. The diasporic transformation of diet is, therefore, a two-way process.

In fact, the arrival of diasporic foodways can more broadly transform the "host culture" into which migrants move. In Britain, for example, the migration of South Asian peoples has brought with it a variety of "immigrant" cuisines. While these were maintained initially for the migrant communities as a reminder of "home," their popularity among non-Asian Britons is longstanding and has continued to grow. Certain indigenized dishes, such as chicken tikka massala, are among the most enthusiastically and widely eaten meals in Britain today. (This, of course, need not signal comfortable race relations away from the table; see Uma Narayan's essay on Indian food in the West, "Eating Cultures.")

Diasporic Dilemmas

It would be wrong to simply equate the popularity of chicken tikka massala in Britain with the comfortable accommodation of South Asian migrants into a commonly shared and widely adopted multicultural identity. This is one of Hage's main points: the adoption of diasporic cuisines by host cultures often does little to encourage other forms of productive encounter between different ethnic groups. In fact, for Hage, the availability of diasporic foodstuffs permits a lazy "cosmo-multiculturalism," in which eating foreign dishes substitutes for other forms of engagement. Moreover, the necessity of maintaining "exotic" foodways can produce a distinct diasporic burden, fixing migrant culinary cultures rather than allowing them to change. There is, therefore, a set of ethical questions attached to the existence of diasporic foodscapes: For whom are they produced? What are their outcomes and effects? What alternatives might be suggested?

Two discussions can serve as illustrations of this dilemma. The first focuses on the role of the döner kebap among Turkish "economic migrants" in Germany. In his essay "McDöner, " Ayse Caglar traces the ways in which the symbolic meaning of the döner has shifted over time. He notes its immense popularity in Germany, and reminds us that the dish was invented for non-Turkish Germans and does not exist in Turkey in the form it is now servedas a fast food consisting of meat slices in pide (Turkish flatbread), garnished with salad and sauces, bought on the street from an Imbiss (mobile stand). Moreover, the vast majority of döners are eaten by non-Turkish Germans. Back in the 1960s, döner vendors traded heavily on the ethnic exoticness or Turkishness of the döner, but since the early 1990s the food has been increasingly deracialized, shedding its ethnic signifiers and in many cases being rebranded using American symbolshence the "McDöner " of Caglar's title. This shift, Caglar explains, mirrored the mounting social marginalization of Turks in Germany.

In the case of the döner kebap, then, we can witness the "invention" of a food symbolic of ethnic identity, though in this case (unlike the Iranian ghormeh-sabzi ) the food is largely consumed by the "host culture" rather than by the immigrants. The "ethnic" markers attached to the döner have subsequently been shed, reflecting the shifting social position of the migrant group. As a final irony, Caglar notes that successful Turkish caterers in Germany have switched to serving Italian food to a more up-market clientele.

A second example is provided by David Parker, in an essay called "The Chinese Takeaway and the Diasporic Habitus." Like the indigenized Indian curry house (a key provider of chicken tikka massala ), the Chinese takeaway (takeout shop or restaurant) has come to occupy a particular symbolic location on the British culinary landscape. However, foods from the South and East Asian subcontinents are available through all kinds of other food outlets, from supermarkets to trendy eateries. Moreover, food is only one cultural product used in diasporic identifications; the development of distinct "ethnic quarters" such as Chinatowns in many cities testifies to a broader-based cultural infrastructure. For critics, the existence of such "ethnic quarters" merely furthers the economic exploitation of diaspora, while for other commentators it suggests the success of multiculturalism. Food outlets are commonly center stage in these kinds of urban areas, testifying to the significance of the food distribution as a site for diasporic cultural production.

Parker reads the Chinese takeaway as a key site for the negotiation of British Chineseness in relation to the global Chinese diaspora. By focusing on the encounters between workers and customers, Parker reveals a mode of interaction that he names the "diasporic habitus," defined as "the embodied subjectivities poised between the legacies of the past, the imperatives of the present, and the possibilities of the future" (p. 75). This habitus shapes ways of "being Chinese" in diasporic contexts, and is the result of the uneven distribution of "imperial capital" between Chinese and non-Chinese Britons: what occurs in the takeaway bears the enduring imprint of colonial contact between Western and non-Western peoples. Parker shows not only how these encounters are overlaid by orientalist racialization, but also how this "contact zone" offers critical possibilities. Parker argues (like Hage) for a contested (instead of celebratory) multiculturalism that explores the complex interplay of identities in everyday locations. The takeaway, therefore, is an emblem of British Chineseness rather than Chinesenessa situational outcome of one particular diasporic foodscape.

Of course, the notion of British Chineseness still retains an emphasis on being (at least in part) Chinese, rather than simply British. This is part of the diasporic burden mentioned earlier: the necessity of retaining some degree of ethnic difference. In some cases, of course, migrant groups may wish to reject, either partially or wholly, their ethnic identity, and adopt the identity of their new "home." They may, however, be denied that possibility by the "host culture," which wants to preserve their ethnic identity for a variety of reasons. The deracializing of döner kebap illustrates an attempt by German Turks to integrate more fully into German society at the same time that the ethnic marker of Turkishness was becoming increasingly problematic there.

The existence of diasporic cuisine marks a complex negotiation between cultural identities. For both German Turks and British Chinese, elements of their cuisines (or "invented" versions of them) have become institutionalized on the foodscape. While this may provide some level of economic securitythe "success" of Chinese takeaways in Britain is often reported as evidence for multiculturalism, at least in terms of business culturethere are many compromises and dilemmas involved as well. As the döner Imbiss and the Chinese takeaway both illustrate, mundane yet intensely symbolic items such as food are woven in complex and shifting ways into discourses of tradition and transformation, identity, and community. Diasporic diets, like all aspects of diasporic identity and culture, are constantly remade, even while some key elements endure over time.

See also Judaism; Travel; United States: Ethnic Cuisines .


Brah, Avtar. Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. London: Routledge, 1996.

Caglar, Ayse S. "McDöner: Döner Kebap and the Social Positioning Struggle of German Turks." In Marketing in a Multicultural World: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cultural Identity, edited by Janeen Costa and Gary Bamoosy. London: Sage, 1995.

Hage, Ghassan. "At Home in the Entrails of the West: Multiculturalism, Ethnic Food, and Migrant Home-Building." In Home/World: Space, Community, and Marginality in Sydney's West, edited by Helen Grace, Ghassan Hage, Lesley Johnson, Julie Langsworth, and Michael Symonds. Annandale: Pluto, 1997.

Harbottle, Lynn. "'Bastard' Chicken or Ghormeh-sabzi? Iranian Women Guarding the Health of the Migrant Family." In Consumption Matters, edited by Stephen Edgell, Hetherington, Kevin, and Alan Warde. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

Moore, Willard B. "Metaphor and Changing Reality: The Foodways and Beliefs of the Russian Molokans in the United States." In Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States: The Performance of Group Identity, edited by Linda Keller Brown and Kay Mussell. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

Narayan, Uma. "Eating Cultures: Incorporation, Identity, and Indian Food." Social Identities 1 (1995).

Parker, David. "The Chinese Takeaway and the Diasporic Habitus: Space, Time, and Power Geometries." In Un/Settled Multiculturalisms: Diasporas, Entanglements, 'Transruptions', edited by Barnor Hesse. London: Zed, 2000

David John Bell


views updated May 18 2018

diaspora, diaspora studies A diaspora is a dispersion of people throughout the world. The term was first applied collectively to the Jews scattered after the Babylonian captivity, and in the modern period to Jews living outside of Palestine and latterly Israel, but has now been extended to include the situation of any widely spread migrant group.

During the late 1980s and 1990s, diaspora studies of transnational experiences and communities developed as a self-conscious critique of earlier sociological approaches to international migration, this shift in terminology reflecting the more general turn towards globalization as a theme in macrosociology (although post-modernism and post-structuralism are also evident influences). Proponents argue that improvements in transport (such as cheap air fares) and communications (electronic mail, satellite television, the Internet) have made it possible for diaspora communities, scattered across the globe, to sustain their own distinctive identities, life-styles, and economic ties. The rigid territorial nationalism that defines modern nation-states has in this way been replaced by a series of shifting and contested boundaries. Diaspora studies has spawned many new terms (‘imagined communities’, ‘global ethnospaces’, ‘preimmigration crucibles’) which describe these transnational influences, and the networks and communities under study, to substitute for the conventional terminology of immigration and assimilation. Typical studies would include Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic (1993) and Nancy Abelmann and John Lie's Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots (1995).

Enthusiasts argue that the new diaspora studies detail the complexity, diversity, and fluidity of migrant identities and experiences in a more realistic way than did the older mechanistic theories and models of international migration (which, it is claimed, emphasized unidirectional flows and influences, uprooting of migrants from their societies and cultures of origin, and assimilation via the melting pot into the new host culture). Critics point to the creation of pointless neologisms, abstruse theoretical terminology, apparent disregard for numbers and generalizations, and a tendency to ignore earlier sociological studies of migration (especially where these document complex structures of opportunity and migrant networks in ways which prefigure the new diaspora studies themselves). It is also said that the new diaspora studies unwarrantably overlook structural economic and political influences upon migration. Certainly, many are focused principally upon personal narratives of migrants, and document mainly the popular culture of the diaspora community.


views updated May 29 2018


The dispersal of ethnonational groups.

The term diaspora is derived from the Greek verb speiro (to sow) and the Greek preposition dia (over). All diasporas have in common significant characteristics: They result from both voluntary and imposed migration; their members wish to and are able to maintain their ethnonational identity, which is the basis for continued solidarity; core members establish in their host countries intricate organizations that are intended to protect the rights of their members and to encourage participation in the cultural, political, social, and economic spheres; and members maintain continuous contacts with their homelands and other dispersed segments of the same nation.

Ethnonational diasporism is a widespread perennial phenomenon not confined to the Jews, although in many contexts the term is presumed to refer specifically to the Jewish diaspora. Some ethnonational diasporas are dwindling or disappearing, but other historical, modern, and incipient diasporas are multiplying and flourishing all over the world, including in the Middle East.

Middle Easterners of various ethnic backgrounds permanently reside in foreign host countries within or outside the region; simultaneuosly, Middle Eastern states host diasporas. The larger diaspora communities in the Middle East include Palestinians, Egyptians, Yemenis, and guest workers from elsewhere (Chinese, Pakistanis, Koreans, Vietnamese, and Filipinos) who reside in the Gulf states and in Saudi Arabia; Armenians, Druze, and guest workers from Romania, Turkey, the former Soviet Union, Thailand, the Philippines, and African countries residing in Israel; Palestinians, Druze, and Armenians in Lebanon; Palestinians, Druze, and Armenians in Syria; and Sudanese, Palestinians, and a small number of Greeks in Egypt. Some of these diapsoras, such as the Armenians, come from established states, while others, such as the Kurds, Druze, Gypsies, and the Palestinians, are stateless.

Age, dispersal in and outside the region, group size, status, organization, and connection (or lack thereof) to their homelands influence each of these diasporas' positions in and strategies toward host countries an d homelands. Because of globalization and growth in worldwide migration, their economic and political roles have become increasingly significant.


Maʾoz, Moshe, and Sheffer, Gabriel, eds. Middle Eastern Minorities and Diasporas. Brighton, U.K.: Sussex Academic Press, 2002.

gabriel sheffer


views updated May 23 2018

di·as·po·ra / dīˈaspərə/ • n. (often the Diaspora) Jews living outside Israel. ∎  the dispersion of the Jews beyond Israel. ∎  the dispersion of any people from their original homeland: the diaspora of boat people from Asia. ∎  the people so dispersed: the Ukrainian diaspora flocked back to Kiev.


views updated May 21 2018

Diaspora (Gk., ‘dispersion’; Heb., galut, ‘exile’, is the nearest equivalent). Jewish communities outside the land of Israel. Today, increased assimilation, higher rates of intermarriage, low birth rates, and increased secularism are threatening the identity of Jews in the Diaspora, except among the ultra-orthodox. The Zionist dream and support for the state of Israel, however, has proved a unifying focus for the diaspora communities.

Diaspora is also widely used for members of other faiths living outside their spiritual homeland, e.g. Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians.


views updated May 17 2018

Diaspora (Gk. ‘dispersion’) Jewish communities outside Palestine. Although there were communities of Jews outside Palestine from the time of the Babylonian Captivity (6th century bc), the Diaspora essentially dates from the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (ad 70). See also Zionism


views updated Jun 27 2018


The Irish in Australia

David Fitzpatrick

The Irish in Britain

Enda Delaney

The Irish in North America

Timothy J. Meagher


views updated May 17 2018


This entry consists of the following articles:

Economic Impact
History of and Global Distribution

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