SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

African and Asian Diasporas in the Contemporary World: Cultures of Resistance and the Dissolution of Boundaries

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

Scholars of diaspora have argued that diaspora has enabled the conceptualisation of communities beyond reified and essentialist ethnic or racial configurations. Central notions associated with diaspora are those of imagination, consciousness, subjectivity, recognition. As James Clifford long ago noted, diaspora functions as a utopic/dystopic vision to think of political subjectivities and communities not as epiphenomena of nation-states but as springboard for de-territorialised formations. Yet, many diasporic communities are still trapped in (albeit ever transforming) colonial forms of power and material dispossession, not only of their identity and culture, but also of their land and resources. Against this background the course offers an exploration of the formation of diasporas and their cultural politics. It looks at how diasporic subjectivities are formed through gendered aesthetic practices and performances, which can take on and signify religious, cultural, political meanings, which are in turn constantly negotiated, hybridised and re-fashioned across bodies, times and spaces. It also focuses on how the liberal state deals with difference and diasporic identities. In particular, the course examines the ways in which secularism and multiculturalism have “managed” embodied identities and subjectivities that are visible in the public sphere as well as attempts to contain, manage, suppress and domesticate ‘difference’. In the second part, the course focuses on diasporas as cultures of resistance and the dissolution of boundaries effected in everyday diasporic practices, from pop-culture to music, literature and food.


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

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Learning Outcomes:
  • Develop an appropriate knowledge base of theories and cases of diaspora;
  • Develop an awareness of methodological issues in the study of global cultures, diasporas and decolonial theory;
  • Develop appropriate analytical skills for digesting and critically engaging with complex theories and their application;
  • Develop appropriate and diverse research and communication skills where theory can be applied in projects outside of the classroom;
  • Undertake independent research and pursue several pathways in diaspora studies


One hour lecture, one hour seminar per week, plus independent study.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Contextualising Diaspora
  2. Asian and African Diasporas: Ethnographic explorations of diasporic formations
  3. The Political Work of Diaspora: Critiques
  4. Liberal States: Secularism, multiculturalism and the containment of diaspora.
  5. Diasporic Communities and Intimacy: Between the public and the private
  6. Diaspora and Gendered Body Politics: From Afro hair to the hijab
  7. Diaspora and transnational politics
  8. Diasporic Rhythms: Musical negotiations and the politics of appropriation
  9. Food and Diaspora: Eating the other, consuming the self
  10. Dissolving Otherness? Diaspora tales in film and literature

Method of assessment

  • AS1: Essay -50%
  • AS2:Project + reflection piece - 50%

Suggested reading

Montgomery, E. J., 2019. Shackled sentiments: Slaves, spirits, and memories in the African diaspora. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.

Beliso-De Jesús, Aisha. 2014. “Santería Copresence and the Making of African Diaspora Bodies”. Cultural Anthropology 29 (3):503-26.

Stovall. T, Race and the making of the nation: blacks in modern France in Gomez, M. A., 2006. Diasporic Africa: A reader. New York: New York University Press.

Clifford, J., 1994, Diasporas, Cultural Anthropology 9/2, pp. 302-338.

Peteet, J. 2007 ‘Problematizing a Palestinian Diaspora’ in International Journal of Middle East Studies, 39(4) 627-646.

El Hamel, C., 2013. Black Morocco: A history of slavery, race, and Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Butler, K. D. 2000. From Black History to Diasporan History: Brazilian Abolition in Afro-Atlantic Context. African Studies Review, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 125–139.

Gilroy, P., 1993. The Black Atlantic. Modernity and Double Consciousness, London, Verso

Shohat, E. 2006. Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices, London: Duke University Press.

Safran, W. 1991. ‘Diasporas in Modern Societies. Myth of Homeland and Return’, in Diaspora. 1 (1): 83-99.

West, M. O., Martin, W. G., & Wilkins, F. C., 2009. From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black international since the age of revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Salih R., Zambelli E., Welchman, L. (2020) “‘From Standing Rock to Palestine We are United’: diaspora politics, decolonisation and the intersectionality of struggles”. Ethnic and Racial Studies


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules