Monday, September 14, 2009

Diaspora- Reflections the Clash Between Nomadism and Sedentarism

While I found all of the articles for this week to be interesting within the framework of conceptualizing a nation-state, I found Karim Karim's article regarding the idea of "nation" through the lens of diaspora particularly intriguing.  His ability to enter the psyche of the diaspora culture both from a historical and theoretical perspective gives credence to his argument regarding the importance of international communication. 

Karim surmises, "The system of nation-states exists by mutual recognition among states (p. 395)."  This approach lends itself to psychological interpretation regarding the notion of identity formation within the diaspora culture.  In essence, especially within this culture, identity not only comes from what a culture thinks of itself but also what the outside cultures think of them.  This learned identity structure has the potential to create volatility within a nation-state, depending on a number of factors.  The example that I was most stricken by involved the clash of nomadism and sedentarism.  While traveling in Borneo I had the opportunity to witness this conflict of lifestyle first hand.  In short, the government was trying to establish control over a native nomadic tribe who had no ability, nor intent, to settle down and change their cultural lifestyle.  Many of the poorer villages began to express some hostility toward this nomadic lifestyle based on the lack of production toward the nation-state and ability to escape the taxes imposed based on land ownership.  It was said that this tribe led an “easy” lifestyle and therefore there existed a clear divide between nomadic tribe, sedentary lifestyle, and governmental communication.  Based on Karim’s examples and further explanation I cannot help but be concerned for how the future of this tribe’s cultural lifestyle will be preserved. 

Karim points to many examples of diaspora culture and the attempts to reconnect with the culture of their former land.  To me, this will always be the case as it is primarily a case of identity formation and people will continue to look for opportunities to unite around similar backgrounds and lifestyles.  In addition, technology only exacerbates this tendency and will continue to provide outlets for these connections.  It is yet to be seen how the cost barriers of some of these connections will affect their utility, but as different media make themselves available to the masses it is likely that the diaspora community will be able to hold on to their traditions via nontraditional ways.   

1 comment:

  1. Nick, I want to hear more about your trip to Borneo! I like your closing point about diaspora communities holding onto their traditions in untraditional ways. It reminded me of something I saw in Stockholm this summer. My friends and I were walking through their neighborhood and they pointed out some public housing units. Frankly, all the houses looked alike to me -- as if they'd been plucked from the pages of an Ikea catalogue -- but my friends said they were easy to identify as immigrant homes because nearly all of the flats had satellite TV. Karim mentions a similar phenomenon when he talks about the comparatively rapid spread of VCR technology in diaspora communities in England. ICTs make it much easier to main a connection with one's homeland, but, as you note, that can have the negative consequence of drawing out or stalling the assimilation process. Of course "assimilation" has fallen out of linguistic favor. Can anyone help me out? What was the new phrase we talked about in class tonight?