2022-24: Knowledge in Diaspora
Contemporary scholarship tends to characterize a “diaspora of knowledge” in terms of the phenomenon called brain drain: the flow of skill-based knowledge out of developing countries to developed countries. This diaspora of expertise is typically taken up to discuss how emigrants can make a contribution—not necessarily financial—to their country of origin. Accordingly extant institutions that encourage diaspora networks create links between different points on the globe, but they tend to foster the “return” of skilled or technological knowledge back to the country left behind.
This is not our model. For one, a richer understanding of the diaspora of knowledge would challenge us to look at the impact of diasporic local knowledge from the country of origin upon the host country: how it contributes to the societal, educational, and ecological knowledge of the locales in which the holders of local knowledges have landed. Such knowledge flows among a multiplicity of networks, from ancient to contemporary, and across the globe. And while contributions to the host country’s knowledge can most easily be seen in food, architecture, and other types of materiality, these are often emphasized at the cost of other less measurable contributions—to ways of thinking about nature, the state, and the human, and to theories of the self and specific practices in philosophies of the world, to the contributions of the languages and religious practices that often flow along with diasporas in interesting and complicated ways.
But this is also a nation-based view, and there is room for a more complicated story. The diaspora of knowledge also includes the flow of human capital in the forced migrations of native peoples: enslaved people and their descendants, refugees, and the “trail of tears.” We might ask questions about the origins and flows of ideas (in various extra-national contexts), alternate genealogies of ideas and practices, alternate ways of knowing that constitute new or just different kinds of relations. Diasporas of knowledge could include groups of Afro-Mexican women learning African dance on YouTube as a diasporic connection predicated on a shared knowledge through embodiment. And the internet and the notion of digital diasporas, online communities, digital exile, massive movements from one platform to another etc. are extremely relevant topics at the present moment.
Finally, one might even think of "Diasporas of Knowledge" as an interrogation of the term "diaspora" and its premise that ways of knowing or forms of knowledge come into being through processes of dispersion, removal, exile, immigration etc. One could speak about un-knowing as a form of knowledge in diaspora or diasporic knowledge. Former adherents to strict faith groups who find common ground on having left, being "de-programmed," and learning-knowing-believing something new, offer a different nuance to the conversation.
(S. Bartsch, S. Dawdy, J. Baker).
On our view, the idea of a diaspora of knowledge challenges us to tell a different story, that of the impact of diasporic local knowledge from the country of origin upon the host country: how it contributes to the societal, educational, and ecological knowledge of the locales in which the holders of local knowledges have landed.