Diaspora and creolization: diverging, converging

Project description

In this project we engaged with the concepts of diaspora and creolization through a comparative study of four different settings. Diasporic and creolized identities tend to be conceptualized as ‘opposites’, the first placing emphasis on the past, the second on the present and future. This study explored the subtle ways in which the two interact with each other, often in a mutually exclusive pattern, but sometimes in a mutually reinforcing way. The key task was to elaborate and rework the contingent, historically specific, and situational settings in which diaspora or creolization emerge, diverge, or converge; the ‘delicate dance’ between them.

We developed a typology of ‘identity trajectories’, which refer to the multiple possible manifestations of social identity that emerge in the face of the challenges arising from globalization, international migration and other rapid social changes. Creolization and diaspora thus become two of five trajectories:

  1. a reaffirmation sub-national entities like clan, tribe, ethnicity, region or locality;
  2. a revival of nationalism;
  3. a recasting of diasporic identities and other supranational and transnational identities like world religions and world language groups;
  4. a linking and blending with other groups through a process of creolization; and
  5. the development of a universal spirit, that is the cosmopolitan possibility.

Key research questions

  1. Under what conditions do diasporic and creolized identities emerge and become salient?
  2. Under what conditions do diaspora and creolization diverge?
  3. Under what conditions do diaspora and creolization converge?


We used a number of the traditional tools of comparative analysis to select our four case studies – looking particularly at those contexts where diaspora and creolization emerge, converge and diverge in significant and illustrative ways. The four chosen fieldwork sites were:

  1. Mauritius
  2. Guadeloupe-Martinique (French Antilles)
  3. Louisiana
  4. Cape Verde

Within each site, we deployed secondary analysis of written material (including grey literature) in English, Portuguese, French and, where possible, a local creole language. This was augmented by fieldwork visits, interviews, participation in relevant events and a study of popular culture (including dance, music, art and artefacts).


Book cover: The Creolization Reader

The Creolization Reader: Studies in Mixed Identities and Cultures, edited by Robin Cohen and Paola Toninato

 Global Diasporas book cover

Global Diasporas: An Introduction, Second Edition, by Robin Cohen

Creolization Bibliography (pdf)
Originally developed as part of the ESRC-funded Creole Social and Cultural Studies programme at the University of Warwick

Diaspora Bibliography (pdf)
Based on a list of references in Global Diasporas: an Introduction

A woman street seller in Cape Verde. The colourful array of goods indicates that Cape Verde is at a crossroads of people and markets. It has some claim to being the first Creole society, with African, Portuguese and other groups combining to form a distinctive new culture. Photograph: Robin Cohen

Project lead

Robin Cohen, International Migration Institute

Other researcher

Olivia Sheringham, International Migration Institute

Project-related outputs

> Books and Chapters
> Journal articles and Working Papers
> Conferences Papers
> Interviews
> Presentations
> Photo essays
> Other Activities
> Other Publications