SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

African and Asian Cultures in the Diaspora

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

The course in intended to be a half unit sister course to The Anthropology of African and Asian Communities in British Society [15 180 2035]. At BA level, the half units can be taken independently, or one half unit in term one and the other in term two.

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. The 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 emergent 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.


  • Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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.


One hour lecture and one hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

The course aims to ground students in a theoretical understanding of the literature, and of the historical and political background to contemporary debates. These issues will be contextualised through ethnographies, based, amongst others, on the Caribbean, U.S.A, Mauritius and East and Southern Africa and South Asia, covering themes such as migration, refugees, transnational identity, religious transformations, consumption practices, film, music and the media. 

Topics include:
  • Introduction to the course;
  • Modernity ‘on the move’;
  • Theories of migration, globalisation, and cultural transformations;
  • Narratives of slavery;
  • Voices from Indenture;
  • Scattered selves: on the idea of diaspora;
  • The politics of space;
  • Locating the Postcolonial: theoretical perspectives;
  • Religion, Rebellion and Identity;
  • Globalising Islam;
  • Consuming hybridity: consumption in a global age;
  • Transnational Rhythms: musical negotiations;
  • Travelling citizenship? Migrants, margins and cities in a global age;
  • Refugees and borders;
  • Consuming hybridity. Consumption in a global age;
  • Dissolving Otherness?: diaspora tales in film;
  • Diaspora tales in literature

In addition to academic texts, students will also be taught using film and fiction.

Lectures will incorporate a broad theoretical and historical perspective as well as specific anthropological examples. The course will also compliment the core third year theory course, Contemporary Trends in the Study of Society.

Method of assessment

  • AS1:Assignment 1 - 70%
  • AS2:Assignment 2 - 20%
  • SP1:Seminar Participation 1 - 10%

Suggested reading

Sample Readings:
  • J. Clifford On Diasporas, in Routes: travel and translation in the late twentieth century (1997)
  • P. Gilroy The Black Atlantic: modernity and double consciousness (1993)
  • A. Gupta & Ferguson Beyond Culture: space, identity and the politics of difference in Culture, Power,  Place: explorations in critical anthropology (2001)
  • A. King Urbanism, Colonialism and the World Economy: cultural and spatial foundations of the world economy (1990)
  • G. Wang Global History and Migration (1997)
  • E. Wolf Europe and the People Without History (1982)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules