chapter  29
10 Pages

Migration and Diaspora in Contemporary Caribbean Literature: ‘No Nation Now but the Imagination’: David Chariandy

In the past two decades, scholars of migration, located internationally and working in a variety of disciplinary and historical contexts, have turned increasingly to the term ‘diaspora’ in order to frame and define their objects of analysis. Diaspora is an ancient term that has accumulated many different connotations and meanings; and while it was first applied to human migrations by the ancient Greeks, it has been articulated most robustly in modern Jewish scholarship, in which ‘Diaspora’ (with a capitalized ‘D’) denotes not only the oftentimes precarious dwelling of Jewish people in foreign lands, but also the experience of traumatic expulsion and mournful exile from one’s ancestral home. For good reasons, both the language and affective signatures of this ‘classic’ Jewish scripting of diaspora has been appropriated and re-codified by generations of African Caribbean writers and artists who have sought to express their own unique experiences of traumatic expulsion, bondage in ‘Babylon’ and the mourning by foreign waters for a lost homeland. Nevertheless, the past two decades has also witnessed a broader explosion of discourse and theory around the term ‘diaspora’, with both cultural producers and professional scholars of many different backgrounds and interests applying this term to a wide array of migrations, voluntary as well as involuntary. Much of the new diaspora theory has sought to draw attention to what is comparable in the migration histories of otherwise distinct groups, to conceptualize travelling cultures and hybridized ethno-racial identities in a global era, and to challenge the forms of essentialism and ethnic absolutism that have been articulated through the modern European categories of nation and race (see, for instance, James Clifford, Robin Cohen, Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, Khachig Tölölyan).