The purpose of this course is to critically evaluate and determine the political, social, and economic implications of the term Diaspora. To do so we will study and discuss how it is defined, theorized, deconstructed, and employed throughout the social sciences. As will become evident a diaspora is not monolithic culture, but is made up of diverse groups. There are context specific relations that define who leaves, when, and how they are received in the new place of settlement. The class will focus on the particular set of social, economic, and political contexts that create and structure the daily lives of diasporic groups.
We will draw from a set of theoretical positions to understand the material and historical conditions of the African, Irish, Chinese, and present-day Latino (or Border) Diasporas. The problems structuring the course are: 1) Does the term diaspora have a specific meaning? 2) How does it impact political, social, and economic discourse in the new place and the homeland? 3) Does a diaspora leave a material signature and can historical archaeology be relevant in understanding the human condition and experiences of a diaspora – both in the past as well as confronting it in the present? To date historical archaeologists have not conceived of a theoretical stance to illustrate the experiences, daily lives, and social relations of a diasporic group, much less theorize about the impact of how such groups are accepted or marginalized in the larger social world, through material culture. Over the course of the semester the class will actively and critically examine the relevance of historical archaeology and material culture studies in the understanding of the formation, experiences, and transformation of diasporic groups over time and space.