Narrating Diaspora. The African Diaspora as a Counter-Narrative

This paper’s central goal is to examine the role that narratives, collective or other­-wise, play in the construction of diaspora as an epistemic formation. In particular, we are interested in exploring the interplay between dominant narratives on diaspora and competing counter-narratives of diaspora. In order to do this, we resort to the concept of “imagined communities” by Benedict Anderson, arguing that the sense of a communion among members of communities is buttressed in collective narratives based on shared knowledge, values, norms, and culture. Further­more, the paper draws on a typology developed by Carolin Gebauer and Roy Sommer which differentiates between narratives on and stories of migration. Adopting this distinction, we argue that narratives on diaspora provide a primarily etic (i.e., outsider) perspective on diasporic formations, as they emphasize group cohesion and a sense of shared group consciousness that unites members of diasporic communities. Such narratives are often found in academic scholarship and in public discourses about diaspora. By contrast, narratives of diaspora refer to discourses that provide an emic (i.e., insider) perspective, acknowledging the diversity and historicity of diasporic formations and their roles as epistemic communities. This emic perspective foregrounds historical ‘moments’ that have led to the development of the African diaspora in Germany, which articulates counter-narratives to various discourses, especially anti-Black racism.


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