chapter  2
exile, nomadism, and diaspora: the stakes of mobility in the western canon
Pages 26

Such concepts as exile, diaspora, and nomadism are often invoked of late as alternatives and antidotes to the totaling character of Western society and thought. In fact, concepts of mobility lie at the heart of the Western canon; otherness wanders through its center. Exile is, perhaps, the central story told in European civilization: the human estate as exile from God, the garden of Eden, the homeland, the womb, or even oneself. Thus Eisen (1986, xi) recasts the opening line of the Book of Genesis: "In the beginning there was exile." Current notions of exile, nomadism, and diaspora are inescapably tied to the Hebrew Bible, ancient Greece, Christianity, and their divergent intellectual, artistic, and political afterlives. Stories of pilgrimage, displacement, and dispersion are central to Western tradition, and we can deploy these concepts more creatively the better we understand their multiple histories.