Within the first decades of the 21st century, millions of women, men and children have migrated from their homes in countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia to locations in Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and the Americas. News media often equate these movements with the concept of a diaspora, using the term to describe almost any human group moving from their homeland to new geographic locations.
In 1962, United Nation’s agency UNESCO convened a First Congress of African Historians. Participating scholars provocatively reminded the agency that our modern world could not be celebrated without first understanding contributions of the African diaspora. The gathering introduced serious perspective to the unexplored reality of the global disbursement of Africans and their descendants and brought the African diaspora term into the academic vocabulary.
As a global phenomenon, the African diaspora began in the 1300s as Arabs captured and sold enslaved sub-Saharan humans from a variety of kingdoms to locations east of the African continent. Based on labor needs in the newly contacted Americas, Europeans entered this global trade of human beings. From the 1400s through the 1900s, massive numbers of African descendant men, women and children were forced and semiforced into migration patterns away from their homelands. They were forcibly taken and sent to places west and east of Africa.
Perhaps contemporary Western societies’ misuse of the term “diaspora” to describe any national groups’ geographic migration is changing the meaning of the word. Or, maybe we haven’t done a good job of educating our citizens about distinctions of important universal concepts. Or, maybe we need a new term for many of today’s populations forced to migrate from their homelands. This will be exceptionally true if, unlike groups in the African diaspora, new groups of migrants are socially included in their new locations.
Discover more at The Conversation.
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