Friday, January 27, 2017

International  Conference on Formation of Culture in Diaspora

General problematics of the conference

The definition of the concept of «diaspora» is one of the major questions under discussion in contemporary social sciences, both from a theoretical and from a practical point of view. Different fields of research, such as history, ethnology, cultural anthropology, sociology, political science tend to use the term with different meanings. As a consequence, some specific definitions of the word “diaspora” can occasionally contradict one another. The present project does not pretend to solve these problems of terminology nor does it intend to present the whole spectrum of diasporas existing in the modern world, or known from historical sources. The material of our project will deal with three diasporas usually considered as classical examples of this phenomenon, as “stereotypical ethnic diasporas” which have long and complex histories: the Jewish, the Greek and the Armenian diasporas. As is well known, the word “diaspora” (from Ancient Greek: διασπορά) was first employed during the Hellenistic period to designate the scattered Jewish population, and it was, later on, also used for Armenian and Greek communities. This choice of material has the advantage to narrow down the broad problematics of research about diasporas in order to precisely formulate the core problem which this project intends to discuss: the mechanisms presiding over the formation of culture in classical (prototypical) diasporic societies (in “mobilized diasporas”, to use the terminology of the American scholar J. Armstrong; or, as the Israeli specialist G. Sheffner calls them, in “diasporas with historical roots”).

The problem thus defined can be treated both at the level of macro-phenomena and at the level of micro-phenomena. On the one side, the studies involved in the conference will take into account the larger context and address some of the central questions of contemporary research concerning the evolution of a culture in a multiethnic, multiconfessional and multilinguistic society. The formation and the cultural particularities of diasporic societies offer a unique material to study the following phenomena: the general trends of contemporary culture towards heterogeneity; the processes of cultural divergence, convergence and synthesis; the coexistence of centripetal (archaizing, conservative) and centrifugal (innovative, assimilatory) orientations in the development of communities. On the other side, the conference will aim at defining the concept of diasporic culture and at distinguishing it from other forms of culture having some typological similarity. It will focus on the following preliminary hypothesis: a diasporic community develops a particular type of culture based on specific social, religious and communicative practices, textual traditions, symbolic interpretations of historical events (charged with ethnic or religious significations), etc.

The increased geographic mobility of people and the easier access to developed means of transportation has stimulated the formation of diasporas in the contemporary world: the number of diasporic communities and the rhythm of their creation have grown. In the last decades, the process of globalization has tended to erase the old frontiers between ethnic groups. It has caused a homogenization of national economic, political and cultural differences and, finally, a diminution in the significance of national identities for small communities as well as for some more numerous ethnic and cultural groups. Nevertheless, the reality of the beginning of the 21st century witnesses a contradictory trend: the economic and political globalization in Asia and in Europe has led to the growth of diasporas which goes hand in hand with the intensity of migratory processes and with the slow political and cultural adaptation and assimilation of the migrants. These new diasporas have created new mechanisms of social development; they have developed new forms of dialogues between religious and ethnic groups and they have also, without doubts, engaged in new conflicts. In these conditions, a study of the processes which lead to the development of a diaspora are all the more actual that it is nowadays necessary to predict the evolution of smaller social and ethnic groups within a society.

The core idea of the planned conference is based on the hypothesis that there exist universal processes of cultural development in classical diasporic communities. One of the tasks of the conference is directly linked to this first stance: to create a methodological basis to describe diasporic cultures and to produce a typological comparative analysis of the social and ethnic processes in the three diasporas under study. The methods which will make possible the resolution of the fundamental questions of this conference will also have to be innovative. Only an interdisciplinary approach can lead to the exhaustive study of diasporic communities in all their variety.

Other more specific issues addressed by this project have received little, or no attention from contemporary research. The study of the development of classical diasporas in recent times supposes to deal with the following themes: 1) repatriation and the representations it implies about the “new” and “old” homeland; 2) the role of modern technologies such as the development of social websites and media, and impact of new tools and means of communication in the evolution of diasporic cultures; 3) the formation of virtual communities united by an ethnic or ethno-religious belonging and their contribution to diasporic identities.

Methodological approaches:

The very topics of the present conference calls for the interdisciplinary approach for implementation of the project's objectives. The conference organizing team plans to invite experts who apply methods drawn from culture studies, literature studies, ethnology, sociolinguistics, ethnolinguistics, and special linguistic methods. For some more certain issues the organizing team plans to invite experts in historical research, dialectology, contact studies approaches. The conference's results may be further applied to work with other language groups and culture phenomenon being results of excessive intercultural contacts.

Please send your abstracts (maximum 300 words, including references) to the conference committee, by email ( by March 1, 2017.

NB: It's advisable to authors to state what research method(s) they apply in their work.

Authors will be notified of paper acceptance or non-acceptance by March 20.

The conference will be held from 4 to 9 September 2017 at the Saint-Petersburg State University, Institute of Philosophy.

The conference is hold within framework of the project supported by the grant from the RSCF.

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