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The demobilization of diaspora: history, memory and ‘latent identity’

Global Networks

Published online on


In the context of sustained interest in the mobilization of diasporic identities, I consider how and why diasporic identities might be demobilized over time. I use the case of an Indian Pakistani community in the UK and the USA (sometimes referred to as ‘Bihari’) to examine how historical memories of conflict are narrated in diaspora and the impact this has on the presence or absence of ‘diasporic consciousness'. The significance of memory in diasporic and transnational communities has been neglected, especially where the narration of historical events is concerned. The impact of forgetting has received particularly scant attention. I argue that, in the absence of this story, important lessons about the role of history in the formation of community are obscured. In this example, the ‘latent’ identities created on diaspora's demobilization help us to unpick the dyadic relations of ‘home’ and ‘away’ at the heart of essentialist conceptualizations of the concept.