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.