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Central to the aim of both this book is to rethink the concept of diaspora as it is used both academically and popularly at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It seeks to interrogate the notion of diaspora in an interdisciplinary way, and to explore the contradictions inherent in contemporary notions of place and identity. It presents explorations of both traditional diasporas, such as the Irish community in the United States and in Great Britain, as well as recently established diasporas being formed ...
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Central to the aim of both this book is to rethink the concept of diaspora as it is used both academically and popularly at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It seeks to interrogate the notion of diaspora in an interdisciplinary way, and to explore the contradictions inherent in contemporary notions of place and identity. It presents explorations of both traditional diasporas, such as the Irish community in the United States and in Great Britain, as well as recently established diasporas being formed through new patterns of migration and resettlement. Traditional conceptions of diaspora focused on forced exile from the homeland and the adoption of conscious strategies of integration upon arrival in the new land. In the past, it was assumed that migrants would rapidly assimilate into their receiving societies. Alternatively, migrant workers were regarded by themselves and their host societies as sojourners: they were not expected to integrate precisely because their alien presence was perceived to be temporary. Two poles then framed the traditional interpretation of migration and settlement. On the one hand, migrants assimilated rapidly; on the other, migrants were temporarily in the host-land. Yet, the realisation both that the melting pot is a myth and that migrant workers do not, in the main, go home, has forced an increasing acceptance of ethnic diversity. This, combined with ongoing improvements in travel and communications technologies, facilitates today's migrants in maintaining links with their home countries. The increased visibility of transnational ethnic communities and a resurgence in labour migration in the twenty-first century, have stimulated academic interest in both contemporary diasporas and in recovering the hidden narratives of earlier global migrations. The renewed interest in the formation and narrative of diasporas is evident across a range of disciplines. Moreover, the meaningful exploration of any aspect of the humanities and social sciences requires an inter-disciplinary approach. Thus is the aim of this volume. Contributors approach the issue of diaspora from a variety of academic backgrounds: sociology, politics, history, literature and the visual arts. Concomitantly, data sources are diverse, with contributors drawing on official government publications, literary sources and personal memoirs, paintings and photographs, popular culture and personal interviews. This diversity of data sources indicates the multifarious approaches to the exploration diaspora. More importantly, it highlights the critical role played by unofficial, and often hidden, narratives in representing the experiences of those who find themselves, through a variety of political, social and economic factors, displaced. This edited collection is a timely and precocious answer to a gap in the literature of identities and nationhood. It is a response to the new challenges and opportunities facing diasporic communities and, what is more, sets out key pointers for rethinking diaspora in the twenty-first century. At a time when western states are facing the need to re-evaluate traditional responses to ethnic difference arising from migration in the mid-twentieth century, this book posits an important perspective on the multiculturalism debate. Contrary to previous political and scholarly assumptions, this book shows that the children and grandchildren of immigrants can continue to have an ambiguous relationship to the state in which they were born in part because of the very nature of diaspora. The enduringly complex and sometimes volatile insider/outsider relationship is explored in these chapters through analysis of various narratives, in textual, spoken and visual forms. Analysis of such 'hidden narratives' reveals that the meaning and pertinence of membership of a diasporic community is defined as much by the context of the host country as by the discourses of the homeland. Across their various sources and case studies, the authors demonstrate the power of the juncture between dominant national discourses of the host state and the identity of its immigrants. Each author notes how different the diasporic community in question would be - not to mention the impact on its relationship to the host state and the homeland - if some of narratives hidden over time were to be reclaimed. As one author puts it, flux in elements of identity-formation in postmodern society represents a chance to 'engage in dialogue with our own diversity'. In constructing a coherent volume from such a diverse range of cases and disciplines, the editors successfully demonstrate the wide validity of their case for 'rethinking diasporas'. Nonetheless, the specific origins of this book - a conference held in a border town in Ireland - are, it may be argued, uniquely significant. For the current process of change in Irish national identity is inseparable from central features of diaspora-formation that the authors highlight, including economic pressures. Moreover, just as the town of Dundalk has historically felt the effects of its proximity to Northern Ireland, so the 'imagined borders' of diaspora explored in this book are shown to be all the more powerful for the fact that their delineation is contested. -Katy Hayward (Institute for British-Irish Studies, UCD