Modern political and religious conflicts, as well as economic disparities and shifts, have led to significant migrations of Arabs both within the Arab World and well beyond its borders. The Arabic terms al-mahjar (the place of migration), al-manfa (the place of exile), and al-shatat (dispersal; the diaspora) are used to refer to the locations in which Arabs live but experience al-hanin ila al-watan (nostalgia or longing for home) and al-ghurba (separation and estrangement experienced when away from home). Yet because of the ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity within the Middle East, the term “Arab” itself must be understood as a loose shorthand referring to people from countries that are predominantly Arabic speaking, though some of them speak Arabic as a second language and may not identify ethnically as Arab at all. In addition to this mosaic of identities, the Arab diaspora includes many forms of migration: Stateless refugees who fled in pursuit of survival; internally displaced refugees; exiles who departed to escape personal threat or censorship; intra-regional and extra-regional immigrants largely motivated by economic factors; return migrants; students who spend a finite period away; and transnationals who split their time between their country of origin and their home abroad. Likewise, host country status ranges from legal resident and citizen to officially registered refugee, to temporary worker or student, to “illegal.” All of these disparate groups have in common their participation, both indirectly and directly, in the key questions and struggles of modern Arab culture: Conceptions of modernity and tradition; how such conceptions pertain to gender and sexuality; the building of identities with multiple class, ethnic, religious, national, and linguistic allegiances; a sense of loss for Arab cultural ascendance and/or for faraway or destroyed homelands; and a search for paths to resiliency. The Arab diaspora is the result of many different historical waves of migration. Yemenis began establishing themselves as merchants via international maritime trade routes in East Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia several centuries ago.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities(all)