SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

African and Asian Diasporas in the Contemporary World

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year
The aim of this course is to take an interdisciplinary approach in order to chart the development of transnational African and Asian cultures in the world today. In recent years, a wealth of new literature has appeared on issues of globalisation, migration and diasporas, adding to classic texts such as Sidney Mintz’ Sweetness and Power (1986) and Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History (1982).

This broad body of work attempts to reconceptualise the world beyond the boundaries of the nation-state, in terms that redefine the experience of colonialism and the relationship of Europe with its’ ‘others’. It places an emphasis on cultural flows and international migration as an integral part of human history, where difference and identity are mediated and renegotiated through historical processes.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Aims and Objectives

  • To critically examine important areas of contemporary social theory which deals with issues of migration, globalisation, the postcolonial world, and cultural transformations.
  • To ground students in the historical basis of these issues
  • To explore ideas of representation in relation to identity and experience

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will develop an appropriate knowledge base
  • Students will develop an awareness of methodological issues in the study of global cultures and postcolonial theory.
  • Students will develop appropriate analytical skills.
  • Students will develop appropriate research and communication skills.
  • At the end of the course, students will be able to undertake independent research and pursue several pathways in diaspora studies.


Classes will consist of a one-hour lecture and a one hour seminar. Lectures will incorporate a broad theoretical and historical perspective as well as specific anthropological examples.

Scope and syllabus

This course draws on established bodies of work as well contemporary literature on migration studies, issues of space and identity, transnationalism, postcolonialism, and theories of diaspora, and globalisation. By exploring the emergence of international African and Asian diasporas through labour migrations, trade, and displacement, the course incorporates a strong historical perspective as well as contemporary issues.

Drawing on historical memory and personal narratives of slavery and indentured labour, the course charts the changing processes of international migration and the subsequent emerging forms of identity in diasporic communities in the modern world. The course will encourage students to examine concepts such as ‘diaspora’ and ‘postcolonialism’ from a critical perspective, and to challenge the ‘new orthodoxies’ in diaspora and migration studies.

Method of assessment

Coursework 90% - 2 Essays of 5,000 words each worth 45% each. 2 x Class Discussion 5% each.  There is no exam for this course.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules