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Diasporas in the Contemporary World

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4496-7
224 pages
July 2009, Polity
Diasporas in the Contemporary World (0745644961) cover image
Throughout human history people have moved across national borders. With the advent of globalization, they are now moving in record numbers in search of greater security or better livelihoods. Diasporas have become an ever important and visible presence in the modern world. Their existence has sometimes resulted in violence and ethnic conflict, and on other occasions they have been peacefully assimilated into the culture and citizenship of their chosen country.


This comprehensive new book seeks to explain why Diaspora communities are increasing as never before. In an accessible and engaging introduction to the field, Milton Esman looks closely at the difference in the reception of Diaspora communities throughout the world, and the responses of those communities to their new nations. By focusing on ten examples of contemporary Diasporas from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, the book describes and illustrates the problems confronting immigrant communities as they attempt to protect their inherited culture, while coping with the demands and the opportunities they encounter in their adopted country. The book pays particular attention to the types of conflicts that arise from the development of Diaspora communities, and the consequences that these conflicts can have on the international community.


This book will be essential reading for students and scholars taking courses in international relations, political sociology, ethnic politics and conflict studies.

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  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 What are Diasporas, Why do they Matter?
  • Chapter 2 Definition and Classes of Diasporas
  • Chapter 3 Contemporary Case Studies: the Data
  • 3a. North Africans: in France, but not French
  • 3b. Overseas Chinese: Malaysian, Thai, Japanese
  • 3c. Zionists in Palestine: a Settler Diaspora
  • 3d. Ukrainians in Canada
  • 3e. The “Russian” Diaspora in Israel
  • 3f. Afro-Brazilians, 1531-2008. “Its in the Blood”
  • 3g. Palestinians in Kuwait
  • 3h. Mexicans in the United States: Fluid Boundaries
  • Chapter 4 Problems and Processes of Adaptation
  • Chapter 5 Diasporas and International Relations
  • Chapter 6 Diasporas and Ethnic Conflict
  • Chapter 7 Diasporas and Public Policy
  • Chapter 8 Prospects and Outcomes
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    Milton Esman is John S. Knight Professor Emeritus of International Studies and Professor Emeritus of Government at Cornell University.
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    - an engaging and accessible introduction to migration, race and ethnic relations for students of international politics and international relations

    - written by an internationally respected scholar in the field of Diaspora studies

    - examines the role of migration in creating conflict and change both for the migrants themselves and the societies in which they settle

    - written with exemplary clarity and avoids the use of jargon

    - completely up-to-date and full of diverse examples drawn from recent developments including the 2008 attacks on refugees from Zimbabwe

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    "A significant attempt to comprehensively gauge the shape and dynamics of the world's diaspora communities, which is no small task for a relatively short book. Yet Esman's deep knowledge and overview of the research literature makes him uniquely placed to undertake such a venture ... Esman manages to demonstrate not only why diasporas are so important in modern societies, but also how every single society on earth is today affected by migration in one way or another ... an interesting and informative read."
    Runnymeade's Quarterly Bulletin

    "Milton Esman's highly original and insightful new book focuses on a hitherto underanalyzed type of ethnic conflict that is of crucial and growing importance in the 21st century. It is both a superb example of comparative analysis and a rich source of persuasive policy recommendations."
    Arend Lijphart, University of California, San Diego

    "Using examples from four continents, Milton Esman documents the major variations determining whether diasporas adjust to their host societies, continue to evince a predominant loyalty to their homelands or evolve a hybrid set of attachments. By his analytical clarity and pointed illustrations, the author has made a noteworthy contribution to diaspora studies."
    Robin Cohen, University of Oxford

    "A wide ranging and insightful analysis of the distinctive trajectories that diasporic groups experience. Esman deftly illuminates the challenges posed by large-scale movements of people and charts the potential pathways for incorporating migrant communities into their new host societies."
    Margaret Weir, University of California, Berkeley

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