WP_13-15

The Logic of Diasporic Selfhood

by Dan Smyer Yu

Working Papers WP 13-15
October 2013
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf


Abstract:
This article is a theoretical attempt to articulate the meanings of diaspora with an emphasis on the individual rather than on the collective movement and cultural change of a given group. Its unit of analysis is therefore the relationship of the Self with its transnational lifeworld as the changing terrain of the diasporic identity. This relationship is seen less as a dichotomy of homeland and hostland or body and consciousness, but as synergetic potential inherent in the kinesthetical nature of diasporic identity: Both the diasporic self and its territoriality are in motion. Thus, the theoretical discourse of diasporic self in this article is meant to suggest a nature of human cultural as well as physical motion, in which the individual plays a pivotal role in refashioning his/her personal and collective identities in what the author terms an enselfment/emplacement process. At the same time this article addresses these questions: How does the individual alter native cultural practices on the move and in diaspora? What are the alternative mediums of cultural discourse when the traditional conceptual framework of culture undergoes destabilization due to the diasporic individual’s displacement, deterritorialization, or movement in and out of the geographic location of his/her cultural origins?


Author:
Dan Smyer Yu, a Research Group Leader at the Department of Religious Diversity, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, is an anthropologist specializing in the studies of religious revitalizations, charismatic communities, commercialization of religious spirituality, and the relationship between ecoreligious practices and place-making in contemporary China.