Dissertation Excerpt

Diaspora, Decoupling and Globalization

Excerpt from Dissertation by Michelle Wright that discusses artists who live away from but continue to create art about their homeland.


Diasporas, migrant communities of people who have left their home land either by force, as a result of war, through natural disasters such as famine and through a desire to create a better life for themselves, have been increasingly discussed by the global media. The UK media focusing only on the current issues that relate to the UK, appears to suggest a false impression of the Diaspora issues affecting people in the UK on a daily basis, these issues affecting the Diasporas, are issues that have existed for many across the world throughout the ages.

Now, more than ever it is especially easy to experience instantaneous interaction with other people around the world as a result of globalisation. We have access to knowledge from anywhere in the world through the internet and the ever increasing access to better technology. It is now easier to travel to anywhere in the world, people trade on a global level and money is easily moved from one country to another. As a result of the world becoming more accessible through globalization, Diaspora and migration is an increasing phenomenon that we are more and more aware of.

Individuals who experience life from within a Diaspora, may encounter issues of identity, in that they associate with more than one identity, not only as an individual but possessing a shared sense of belonging to the transient community they exist within and the community that still exist in their homeland. Over time, it is only natural for individuals who have migrated to begin to identify with their host community also. It is only natural to feel that sense of belonging which comes from the community we are a part of but also from knowing where we came from, understanding our roots. These transient communities, having de-coupled from their homeland without severing roots to their homeland, in a sense become its own autonomous entity.

There are many artists in the world today who deal with issues of Diaspora and Migration whilst living away from their homeland. Although they are apart from the day to day experiences of their homeland, they continue to be rooted in the traditions and beliefs of the nation that they are intrinsically linked too. This duality, born in one place, live in another but still belong to the culture of your homeland can be a place where isolation is experienced, being connected to your homeland, all the time, while being separated. The Diaspora Art created, resonates with the essence of this sense of rootedness to their homeland and represents a remembrance or homage to those traditions and beliefs that are at the core of their being.

Some artists also create work about Diaspora as an observer or an outsider looking in at the Transient Communities. This process of ethnographic research can mean that the artist spends time with the Diaspora they are observing to gain a better understanding of their distinct position in today’s society, behaviours, beliefs, attitudes, language and traditions through the observation of their daily lives and information gathered through other means, such as artefacts and journals.

When Ethnographic Research is undertaken, the observer can find they empathise strongly with the Diaspora, can become conditioned by the group culture and begin to develop the same cultural tendencies, strengthening relationships with the group without actually becoming a part of the group.

A Transient Community can sometimes lack a collective identity or historical event that creates a collective bond amongst the community which can lead to the re-invention of traditions from their homeland or even the invention of new traditions, attempting to keep their cultural heritage alive.

When a Diasporic Community is moving to a new host country it must be anticipated that there will be an element of hostility from the host community, often taking the form of aggression towards individuals that belong to these migrating communities.

Encouraged by the media, it appears to be a common way of thinking in the UK that the influx of these migrant communities will destroy our Britishness, that cultural heritage that we Brits identify with. However host communities are often divided with an element of the resident population welcoming the migrant communities, providing help, support and assistance to enable them become established within the UK.

This amalgamation of new cultures can bring about exciting periods of change and an assimilation that may in fact preserve our so cherished traditions and identity that some cling to fervently. People belonging to these migrating communities have trades of worked in a professional capacity before they had to migrate from their homeland, these skills can only be seen as a positive contribution to the new society that they find themselves in.

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