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Intercultural
Lexicon

Cosmopolitism

It is the philosophical and political concept that extends the ideas of citizenship and homeland to the whole world and to all humankind, opposing the particularity of nations and national states.

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Participation

It is possible to participate in a brutal event – such as gang rape, lynching, an ethnic cleansing operation – or in a humanitarian event – fund raising, collective adoption, sacrificing oneself in an exchange of prisoners..

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Revolution

Though its semantic origins are pre-modern, revolution has been a fundamental category of the interpretation of modern times.

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Freedom

The philosophical justification of the idea of freedom is one of those enigmas all great philosophers have addressed, often concluding their imposing attempts by acknowledging the impossibility to access a firm Archimedean point placing freedom on a incontrovertible theoretical pedestal..

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Anti-semitism

The use of the expression anti-Semitism to indicate hostility towards the Jews – only the Jews and not as generally thought towards all “Semitic” people – dates back to the second half of the 19th Century, when the word, a neologism derived from linguistics, was spread throughout...

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Reset
A month of ideas.
Giancarlo Bosetti Editor-in-chief
Association for dialogue and intercultural understanding
Intercultural Lexicon
IT Tuesday, 7 November 2006

The Diaspora

Literally a diaspora is the “dispersion of a people leaving their homeland and migrating in various directions”. The word itself, which derives from Greek “to sow here and there”, already appeared in The War of the Peloponnesus by Thucydides, and was later used to indicate the dispersion of the first Christian communities in the days of the Roman Empire.


As from the 20th Century it began to be used in more univocal and specific manner to indicate the descendents of the Jews spread all over Europe and the world after being expelled from Palestine during the 1st Century A.D. The idea of a diaspora as the result of a catastrophe has in this sense become a real ideal-type. In addition to the Jewish diaspora, there have been other great Diasporas in history such as for example the Armenian or Kurdish ones.

During the last decades of the 20th Century the concept was however reused with different meanings, within the more generalised context of the globalisation process. Trans-national or global diasporas mean migratory movements that include new categories of people: expatriates, political refugees, immigrants, foreign residents, but also individuals moving for reasons involving study or work, developing multiple relations made possible by the technological revolution and characterised by the creation of multiple trans-national identities.

Scholars of the diaspora use a number of discriminating criteria in identifying a diaspora. In particular the sociologist of diasporas Robin Cohen has proposed six defining elements for the diaspora in globalisation: the presence of collective memories and a mythicising of the original homeland; the promoting of a movement for returning there; the presence of a strong ethnic basis created and enriched over a medium and long term period; the presence of difficult relations with the host country; a strong sense of inner solidarity as well as with co-ethnic groups also in other countries; a creative aptitude contributing to cultural and artistic development in hosting countries (Global Diasporas. An Introduction, Seattle, 1997).

Basically one can say that within globalisation, a diaspora occurs increasingly rather like a “knot of nets” and that the networking process results in new global and post-modern diasporas. All this also involves new forms and modalities in identity creating. Defined by Arjun Appadurai (Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimension of Globalization, Minneapolis, 1996) as “communities of feelings”, the identity of the Diasporas is mobile, nomadic, and also created through the collective imagination spread by the new media. In this sense one can state that the diasporas are increasingly difficult to define and to understand, although their importance as players in the globalisation process is not questionable.

From Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino, Political Dictionary, Utet, 2004.

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