725 African and Asian Diasporas: Culture, Politics, Identities

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

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 module 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 module 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 module 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.

Representative lecture topics from recent years include:

  • Contextualising diaspora and the cultural politics of dislocation
  • The predicament of 'race' in and across diasporic spaces
  • Seawards: The Tidal Poetics of Black Caribbean
  • Diasporic imagination and traditional futures - Roots, Routes and Rites of returns
  • The affective production of Otherness - Emotional Economies of Fear
  • Unruly creatives: The aesthetic practices of queer diasporas
  • Secular affects and diasporic (embodied) counter-politics
  • What is lost in displacement? Home, homeland and diasporic motherhood
  • Survival songs: The Blues as political possibility
  • When Antigone is Muslim - Diasporic literature between adaptation and resistance


Compulsory module for all students on:

  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies
  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies + Intensive Language

Guided option for students on:

  • MA Social Anthropology
  • MA Social Anthropology + Intensive Language
  • MRes Social Anthropology
  • MRes Social Anthropology + Intensive Language

This module is also a School-wide Open Option. No prerequisites.

  • Note: Combination of 724 Migration, Borders and Space and 725 Asian and African Diasporas: Culture, Politics, Identities is open only to students on the MA Migration and Diaspora Studies and the MRes Social Anthropology. All other MA students may take either 724 or 725 as an option, but not both.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By taking this module, students will have the opportunity to:

  • 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

Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Beliso-De Jesús, Aisha. 2014. “Santería Copresence and the Making of African Diaspora Bodies”. Cultural Anthropology 29 (3):503-26.
  • 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.
  • Clifford, J., 1994, Diasporas, Cultural Anthropology 9/2, pp. 302-338.
  • El Hamel, C., 2013. Black Morocco: A history of slavery, race, and Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gilroy, P., 1993. The Black Atlantic. Modernity and Double Consciousness, London, Verso
  • Montgomery, E. J., 2019. Shackled sentiments: Slaves, spirits, and memories in the African diaspora. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.
  • Peteet, J. 2007 ‘Problematizing a Palestinian Diaspora’ in International Journal of Middle East Studies, 39(4) 627-646.
  • Safran, W. 1991. ‘Diasporas in Modern Societies. Myth of Homeland and Return’, in Diaspora. 1 (1): 83-99.
  • 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
  • Shohat, E. 2006. Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices, London : Duke University Press.
  • Stovall, T. 2006. Race and the making of the nation: Blacks in modern France in Gomez, M. A., Diasporic Africa: A reader. New York: New York University Press.
  • 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.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules