Learning about where we all come from will help teach us about where we should go next. That is the theme of an international panel discussion to be held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh next week.
The international panel of academics – Dr Katucha Bento; Dr Marlo De Lara; Dr Emma Hill and Professor Nasar Meer – is set to explore the idea of continuing cultural integration, how migration throughout human history has shaped the world we live in, and how people can retain or change a sense of national identity as society changes.
Professor Nasar Meer FRSE
It feels like the world is on the move, yet at the same time there is a desire to make sense of home.
Professor Nasar Meer FRSE said: “I think it’s a really exciting time to be thinking about diaspora. In many respects it feels like the world is on the move, yet at the same time there is a desire to make sense of home.”
The message from the four panelists is that diasporic connections are all around us and should be celebrated, while keeping in mind that many have origins in conflict.
A diaspora – the spread of people from their original homeland – can cover a wide variety of different people from all walks of life. On a smaller scale such as people moving from the highlands and islands of Scotland into the central belt, or on a larger scale with more disruption mass migration brought on by war or famine. There are examples of diasporas the world over, and throughout time.
Dr Marlo De Lara FRSA
“I think that when we speak of diasporas, we cannot help but talk about human survival.
Dr Marlo De Lara FRSA of the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh said: “I think that when we speak of diasporas, we cannot help but talk about human survival. That means we have to address the concepts of forced migration and depletion of resources, which ultimately means we have to face the unjust power dynamics that created these initial conditions.
“When we speak of diasporas, we speak of real groups of humans who were often systematically displaced and minimised in their homeland.”
Conversations about diasporas are not always about the positive impacts that migration has brought, but also about the darker side of human history.
Dr De Lara added: “It is an uncomfortable truth that we have to discuss histories of violence as it complicates the idea that we all have the same access to basic human resources and safety. This discussion is a necessity for us to create more compassionate and equitable futures for all humankind.”
The event aims to keep discussions of the struggles of diasporic communities alive, and to bring them to the fore.
Professor Meer said: “Diaspora as an idea has been in and out of vogue and its talked about more when there are large events on, but diasporas are always there, all the time all year round.
“We hope this conversation opens up the fact of their existence but also encourages people to think about the work that they do in terms of remaking common membership or national identity.”
The free event Surfacing Diasporas takes place at The Royal Society of Edinburgh, and online, on Wednesday 6 September at 1pm.