Diasporic Concerns in Jhumpa Lahiri's Works

Topics: Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Indian American Pages: 16 (6241 words) Published: August 28, 2012
The word ‘Diaspora’ is derived from the Greek word ‘sperio’ which means to sow, to scatter and the preposition ‘dea’ means over. The term was first used in the context of the experiences and predicament of the Jews who were rendered homeless after the Babylonian conquests. The Roman general, Titus, and his army invaded Palestine, laying siege to all the cities and towns there and conquered Jerusalem in A.D 74. An estimated 1,100,000 Jews died in that conquest and thousands of additional Jews either fled from Palestine or were carried away as salves. The Oxford English Dictionary (2011) traces the etymology of the word ‘Diaspora’ back to its Greek root and to its appearance in the Old Testament. The Dictionary commences with the Judic History, mentioning only two types of dispersal: The “Jews living dispersed among the gentiles after the captivity” and “the Jewish Christians residing outside the Palestine.” The application of the concept of “diaspora” has grown by leaps and bounds in the wake of globalization, and the word has come to be used as an inclusive term which is applied as a metaphor for all displaced people- expatriates, immigrants, exiles, refugees and other ethnic minorities. Thus, today, ‘diaspora’ refers to dispersed populations that, like seeds scattered away from the parental body of the homeland, do not assimilate completely but rather manage to reproduce in new sites of settlement a social formation, a culture, and an identity that remains linked to the homelands. Gabriel Sheffer defines diaspora as a “socio-political formation, created as a result of either voluntary or forced migration, whose members regard themselves as of the same ethno-national origin and who permanently reside as minorities in one or several host countries. Members of such entities maintain regular or occasional contacts with what they regard as their homeland and with individuals and groups of the same background residing in other host countries” (10-11). Therefore, diaspora is a movement of people from one or more nation to another. They migrate to a foreign country and become part of the country for better life of comfort and happiness. They do not want to be confined to the boundary of a nation; they break it and move on for their personal progress and development. Diaspora refers not only to physical displacement but it also refers to a sensibility in which nostalgia, alienation and sometimes cynical celebration are deeply engrossed. Since time immemorial people of India have been migrating to other countries for various reasons. The overseas Indian community estimated over 25 million is spread across many region in the world which makes a diverse heterogeneous community which is representing different regions, language, culture and beliefs. The Indian diaspora has been formed by a scattering of population and not, in the Jewish sense, an exodus of population at a particular point in time. Emmanuel S. Nelson defines the Indian Diaspora as “the historical and contemporary presence of people of Indian subcontinent origin in other areas of the world” (52). The migration of Indians to other countries can be divided into three phases- - Pre-colonial phase

- Colonial phase
- Post colonial phase
The history of the Indian diaspora is closely linked to India’s commercial links and can be traced back nearly four millennia where the Indus Valley civilization traded with ancient Mesopotanice. The first evidence of Indian migration is traced in 5th century BC when the merchants from western India settled in Ceylon, which was finally converted to Buddhism during the reign of Ashoka. Some other merchants found their way to Malaya, Sumatra, Java and other parts of South East Asia and settled there permanently. Indian Monks, traders and way-farers took Buddhism through central Asia to China, from Tibet to Mongolia and Japan. Thus we see that...
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