The term diaspora (Greek διασπορά: scattering, scatteredness, cf. Dtn. 28, 64 LXX) was originally used in Christian theology and initially referred to the exile of the Jewish people (Galut, Hebrew גלות) and later on to Christian minorities. The research network 'Diaspora Studies' uses the term 'Diaspora' to designate different religious, national, cultural, and ethnic communities, often characterized by their technological and/or economic specialization. The characteristics of diasporas are actors distributed worldwide but simultaneously are in transnational exchange with each other over the geographical distance that characterizes them. Diasporic communities in social majority situations confirm their collective identity through a common, possibly transgenerational narrative of origin or 'confession.' The shared commitment is fundamental for the stabilization of bonding forces within the communities and the development of resilience or resistance to assimilation expectations in the majority society: the weaker this commitment is, the more likely the diasporic community will dissolve; on the other hand, the stronger this commitment is, the more likely the social segregation of the diasporic community will be promoted. Diasporic communities, therefore, face the paradoxical challenge of preserving their identity without being socially disintegrated at the same time.
The central tasks of the research network are the interdisciplinary sharpening of the understanding of the term diaspora and the continuation of the methodological research of diaspora communities. To this end, the research network 'Diaspora Studies' examines diasporas in the past and present in a multidimensional manner from primarily three perspectives:
- Diasporas as transnational communities in global economic competition. Significant innovations in transport and communications and the liberalization of markets and deregulation measures have led to deterritorialization and increased mobility of various social communities in recent decades. The spatial dispersion and their high mobility allow them to provide and use resources on a global scale, which puts them in an advantageous position over those actors who only conduct economic activities in a specific location. Entrepreneurs with such a translocal orientation thus become a key driver of globalization. Therefore, dealing with such actors, the knowledge transfer that takes place via them, and the regional implications of their economic activities are a central concern of diaspora research in Jena.
- Diasporas as religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, or national minorities in majority societies. The references and negotiation processes between diaspora communities and their actors among themselves and with the majority of society are the subject of historical-systematic and empirical projects of diaspora research in Jena. These projects continue with the development of diaspora communities that have emerged in the course of global migration movements in Europe and especially in Germany over the past one and a half-decade. In particular, the forms of encounter and negotiation processes between diasporas and the majority society as well as among themselves are examined.
- Diasporas as global processes of transnational communalization and the formation of post-migrant societies. With advancing globalization and digitalization, new political-geographical formations and spaces are emerging with diasporas. Of particular interest are the spaces of possibility for translocal political action that is opened up as a result. One focus of diaspora and transnationalism research in Jena is the critical examination of affective and everyday geopolitics.