Conference examines the impact of diasporas both within the UK and across the globe

Posted by ap507 at Sep 02, 2015 10:34 AM |
Researchers at the University of Oxford and University of Leicester join forces to present The Impact of Diasporas at the Royal Geographical Society, London

Issued by the University of Leicester and University of Oxford

Thursday 17 September: A one-day conference will be held at the Royal Geographical Society in London, at which 18 papers will present five years of research projects carried out by the universities of Leicester and Oxford focusing on the dispersal of people from their homelands.

Researchers, students and the public are invited to attend the one-day celebratory event which will celebrate the culmination of work undertaken by the Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain programme at the University of Leicester and the Oxford Diasporas Programme, both supported by funding from the Leverhulme Trust.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo, will give the keynote address on ‘Culture as a commons: Osmosis, crossroads and the paradoxes of identity’. Speakers will also include the principal investigators Professor Joanna Story from the University of Leicester and Professor Robin Cohen from the University of Oxford.

This event will include eighteen wide-ranging papers, stretching from research into Tamil and Somali diasporas in the 21st century to analysis of ‘shared devotions’ in East London over the past 200 years, and linguistic variation in early Anglo-Saxon England. The audience will engage in debate and curated visual displays around four themes: Home and Away; Remembering and Forgetting; Coming and Going; Lost and Found. Attendees will also receive free copies of programme publications, including Diasporas Reimagined, a series of thought-provoking snapshots illustrating the variety of research on diasporas, and an 80-page book summarising the work of the Impact of Diasporas projects. 

Professor Robin Cohen, of the Oxford Diasporas Programme, said:  “Controversies about migration are the stuff of daily news. But behind the headlines are the stories of diasporas – groups dispersed to many countries but connected to “home”, struggling to make their aspirations and identities fit with those among whom they find themselves, and often trying to resolve conflicts fomented by internal differences and external hostility.

“During the last five years, Oxford researchers have worked in Africa, the Indian Ocean, among Roma, Palestinian and Kurds and in the East End of London (and other places too) to understand the dynamics of diaspora formation and their impact on other groups.”

Topics include:

Hadrami diaspora – Find out about this fascinating diaspora who are spread across the Indian Ocean and whose members included Osama Bin Laden.

Zimbabwe diaspora – Discover how political interventions by African diasporas and switched on and off by ‘animators’ responding to politics in the homeland.

States and diasporas – Hear how the majority of the world's states are planning to reach out to their diasporas and create ministries and departments to do so. Do they succeed?

Professor Joanna Story, of the University of Leicester, added: “Diasporas are an ancient phenomenon too. Researchers studying past societies cannot speak to the migrants of distant times, and must investigate their experiences and the impact that their travels had on later generations through the textual and material culture that they left behind, and through their biological remains.

“But even this is only a part of the story. The impact of diaspora is as much what people hold in their minds about the bonds that connect them with distant people, distant places, and distant times, as about the objects or cultural practices that recall those connections. This was as true then as it is now.

“Over the past four years researchers based at the University of Leicester and the University of Nottingham have been working on genetic, linguistic, archaeological, literary and historical evidence to explore the impact of ancient diasporas on the making of Britain, and how these deep time diasporas impact on modern perceptions of identity and belonging.”

Topics include:

Viking voyages: Can genetics reveal the impact of Viking settlement in northern Britain in the early middle ages, and whether these settlers included women as well as men?  What did they call the places where they lived and the landscape that they farmed? How many of these names have survived until today?

The origins of English: Was the English language brought to Britain as a unified language by Germanic settlers in the fifth and sixth centuries, or did it gradually emerge from many different dialects?

Ancient identities & modern meanings: Find out how memories of the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Celts influence modern identities in Britain.

For more information and interview requests, contact the University of Oxford News Office on

Media are invited to attend the event free of charge. Research papers can be available to media in advance on request.

Notes for editors

The Impact of Diasporas is on Thursday 17 September 2015, from 9.30am to 8pm at the Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR.

To register for the event go to:

Download the event poster and programme at:

Find the event on Facebook at:

Follow the event on Twitter @oxdiasporas and @LeicsDiasporas

The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education; today it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £80 million a year. For more information, visit / @LeverhulmeTrust

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