"Diaspora": Definitional Differences

Entered by Leong Yew

The Dictionary of Global Culture

The entry in The Dictionary of Global Culture starts with two senses of the word. In its original use it referred to the process by which the Jews were exiled from their homeland, while in more recent times, it refers to the Jewish people residing outside Israel. Diaspora is often associated with Zionism, which is the belief in the Jews' legitimate claim to a homeland (Palestine). Historically, the Diaspora has undergone different phases, the first significant one occuring in 586 BCE when the Babylonians conquered Judah, leading to the enslavement of the Jews. The largest Diaspora, which occured during the first century BCE and lasted for 1800 years, led to the displacement of 5 million Jews. The numerous Diasporas that have taken place did not necessarily lead to Jews returning to Palestine even after the initial cause of the exile had disappeared.

  • Appiah, Kwame Anthony and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds. The Dictionary of Global Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. 178-179.

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Last Modified: 3 March 2002