chapter
Introduction
ByDAGMAR FREIST, SUSANNE LACHENICHT
Pages 9

Since the fifteenth century, migration, trade, colonisation, wars and expulsions, missions and expeditions have contributed to the spatial expansion of social interaction; they increasingly connected worlds and people. The emergence of religious and economic diasporas is closely linked to these processes. Whilst for a long time the term diaspora was closely associated with the exile of the Jews or “victim diasporas”, sociologists, such as Robin Cohen, have conceived of diasporas in a broader perspective as labour or trade diasporas (Cohen 2008), and thus paved the way for integrating diaspora research into the wider field of transregional and transnational studies. This rapidly growing and changing research field has emphasized the entanglement of regions, and the emergence of new regions: the Baltic borderlands (North 2010; Drost and North 2013), or the Atlantic World, “as a constantly evolving and changing world in which ideas, peoples, and things from diverse areas continually interacted with other ideas, peoples and things in complex ways” (Burnard). Whereas the so-called “overseas studies” have to be understood as an extension of European history and nation building, more recent studies pay tribute to the complexity of entangled worlds by increasingly trying to integrate the part “played by Native Americans and Africans in shaping the course of events” (Canny and Morgan 2011, 2). From a different angle, economic historians have questioned the conflation of “national” and religious origin with economic networks, and they have fairly well established the extent to which the movements of people and the establishment of economic or religious networks crossed formal territorial, national, imperial and even religious or ethnic boundaries (Hancock and McCusker 2000; Trivellato 2009; Lamikiz 2011). Furthermore, the growing interest in transregional and transnational family networks has focused on everyday experiences of people on the move (Pearsall 2008; Johnson et al. 2011; Rothschild 2011), and highlighted the challenges involved in staying connected with the familiar while trying to engage with a new world (Freist 2015).