The question of diaspora is bound to movement and its narration, but in an aberrant way. A narration of movement is generally marked by departure, passage, and arrival. Diaspora, while certainly shaped by these marks, tends to disrupt their relations. Its dynamics of non-belonging, multiple-belonging, and the in-between serve to express movements that could be narrated as both never arriving and never beginning. Indeed, the question of diaspora is inseparable from the question of how to move, how to make one’s way, in contexts in which one must negotiate the impossibilities of belonging.
Diaspora designates those who are ‘loose in the world’ (James Clifford) and encapsulates variegated historical, post-colonial, political, and cultural contexts. Contemporary uses of the term extend well beyond the classical Jewish-oriented one and are more accommodating of a multiplicity of experiences. Accordingly, it has emerged as a means of expressing the negotiations of non-Jewish groups with the impossibilities of belonging. In this sense, the question of diaspora, today, is inflected by the relationship between its Jewish and non-Jewish iterations: In what sense does the former provide a paradigm for the term’s general meaning? And in what sense might non-Jewish diasporas press us to rethink such a paradigm?
Furthermore, the ontological, rhetorical, and embodied aspects of diaspora – which are marked by displacement, exile, and the transnationalization of identity politics, and which are informed by histories of persecution and violence – raise questions about the relationships between queer subjects and notions of belonging, whether to a collective, a family, a nation, or a ‘home’. What are the ways in which queerness emerges and exists? How does it enable and enact migration, identity trans/formation, and political affiliation along racial and affective trajectories? And while diaspora cannot (and should not) be reduced to geopolitical entities or categories, how do the uses of this term by different groups – racial, national, and sexual – occupy, refuse, and shape the public? These questions indicate the complexities of narrating an existence that does not belong where it is supposed to belong. Faced with narrative’s promise of making belonging – or its impossibility – recognizable, diaspora is bound to a certain error, or experimentation.
An ICI Berlin event, organized by Hila Amit, Daniel C. Barber, and Ruth Preser
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