Methods

Primer: Migration and Diaspora in World History

Peter Adebayo
Thumbnail image of Immigrant Crossing Road Sign

Overview

The phenomenon of migration is as old as the evolution of human beings, which predates even the concept of world history. The interlocking relationship between human evolution, migration and the diaspora is best understood through the migratory nature of humans; a significant epoch in world history. The scientific evolution of humans, beginning with the oldest man-ape; Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis to the modern Homo Sapiens all reflected the necessity of migration for survival and security. The Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Metal age of human developmental histories all suggested a chain of transformation through constant human migration and exploration of their immediate physical environment. The legendary archaeological discovery of L. S. B and Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge, Tanganyika in 1959, of which traces of old living sites and stone tools associated with the largest man-ape skull, incontrovertibly confirmed that the evolution of human beings began in the continent of Africa. Accordingly, the Homo-Habilis and Homo-Erectus were known to be confined in Africa, progressively the Homo-Erectus spread through Asia and Homo-Neanderthalenisi migrated through Europe. However, it was around 50,000 to 46,000 years ago that the modern man Homo Sapien reached Australia. The transformation of man to Homo Sapien, described as the bipedal man, sophisticatedly mobile, mentally conscious of his identity and environment could be said to be the threshold of the global diaspora. Migration and diaspora are inseparable twins of identical characteristic. However, the former precedes the latter, consequently, there is no diaspora without migration. The term diaspora is historically linked with the exodus migration of the Jews from Egypt to the promised land of Israel. Furthermore, it is linked to the emergence of Jewish nationalism and identity across the continent of Europe which was the foundation of the Zionist movement since the 19th century.

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history.

Essay

The phenomenon of migration is as old as the evolution of human beings, which predates even the concept of world history. The interlocking relationship between human evolution, migration and the diaspora is best understood through the migratory nature of humans; a significant epoch in world history. The scientific evolution of humans, beginning with the oldest man-ape; Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis to the modern Homo Sapiens all reflected the necessity of migration for survival and security. The Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Metal age of human developmental histories all suggested a chain of transformation through constant human migration and exploration of their immediate physical environment. The legendary archaeological discovery of L. S. B and Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge, Tanganyika in 1959, of which traces of old living sites and stone tools associated with the largest man-ape skull, incontrovertibly confirmed that the evolution of human beings began in the continent of Africa. Accordingly, the Homo-Habilis and Homo-Erectus were known to be confined in Africa, progressively the Homo-Erectus spread through Asia and Homo-Neanderthalenisi migrated through Europe. However, it was around 50,000 to 46,000 years ago that the modern man Homo Sapien reached Australia. The transformation of man to Homo Sapien, described as the bipedal man, sophisticatedly mobile, mentally conscious of his identity and environment could be said to be the threshold of the global diaspora. Migration and diaspora are inseparable twins of identical characteristic. However, the former precedes the latter, consequently, there is no diaspora without migration. The term diaspora is historically linked with the exodus migration of the Jews from Egypt to the promised land of Israel. Furthermore, it is linked to the emergence of Jewish nationalism and identity across the continent of Europe which was the foundation of the Zionist movement since the 19th century.

The phenomenon of migration and diaspora has become more prominent in contemporary world history since the fall of the Berlin wall and the succeeding globalization. Globalization brought about the integration of the world into a “global village” where border restrictions have less meaning. The interconnection and interpenetration of the global economic, socio-cultural and political activities have continued to stimulate global migration and diaspora relevance in the home and host countries. However, global diaspora can be classified into four levels. First, imperial diaspora; this is a group of a colonialists who leave their homeland to colonize other groups, as was the case of Nigeria under British rule. Second, victim diaspora; a group of dispersed persons who leave their ancestral home after a horrific event, the Jewish exodus migration to Europe is a clear example. Third, labour diaspora; this is a chain of migrants who leave their homeland in search of work in a developed or developing country. Fourth, the diaspora of trade; this is a group of a merchant who leaves their homeland for the pursuit of trade and development in the host country, for instance, the Lebanese, American and the British migrants business and multinational companies in Nigeria (Robin Cohen, 1997). These categories of the diaspora are actively involved in the global migratory process and have been a focal point in the contemporary world history discourse.

In the African context, diasporas are being classified into two which include the Old Diaspora and the New Diaspora. The Old Diaspora is forced migrant of slave trade and colonialism, whose descendants are presently found in the Caribbean, Europe, United States of America and Brazil. They have assimilated and adapted into the host societies, but still, share a cultural and biological connection to Africa. On the other hand, the new diasporas constitute a diaspora of voluntary migration, who leave their homeland as a result of insecurity at home and for greener pasture abroad. These categories of the diaspora are located in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Gulf countries. African modern diasporas are patriots and are culturally connected to their homeland. Diaspora members send down remittance to their home country to support the needs of their families and friends.

The United States of America has been known as the world largest migrant destination which hosts a conglomerate of world migrant communities from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Europe has hosted a population of labour migrants from Africa and Asia since the industrial revolution. Labour migrants are employed as a workforce to develop the host country economy and infrastructure. The phenomenon of labour migration, migration policy and law, human trafficking, smugglers, refugee and asylum seekers, xenophobia attack repatriation, remittance, and extradition has attracted global attention and has become a trend in the contemporary world history. The issues surrounding the Venezuela and Mexican migrants into the U.S.A, the desperate attempted migration of Africans to Europe en-route Libya, the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea, the Rohingya refugee crisis, and African refugee crisis to mention but a few occupies the landscape of contemporary migration discourse that are to shaping the nature of world history.

However, the significance of diaspora financial and social remittances has also emerged in the field of global diaspora studies. The mutual benefit derived as a result of diaspora engagement in the host countries has given prominence to the study of the global diaspora. The host country exploits the intelligentsia diaspora as manpower in their manufacturing industries, construction sites, medical industry and as menial workers, amounting to the development and transformation of the destination countries as experienced in Europe, U.S.A and the Gulf States. On the other hand, the home country who had suffered brain drain is naturally compensated with huge remittance inflow from the patriotic diaspora who invest in the business at home and send down money to their families and relatives for meaningful living. Remittances are the most measurable contribution that diasporas contribute to the development of the home country, although most governments asserted that they are private wealth, protected from undue state interference. Nonetheless, there are records of enormous benefits from remittances in countries like India which is the largest recipient of recorded remittance and one of the largest sources of migrants in the world.

Primary Sources

Thumbnail image of Immigrant Crossing Road Sign
Annotation:

Interstate 5 runs from the Mexican/U.S. border crossing at San Ysidro, California, to the Peace Arch Crossing into Canada at Blaine, Washington. This official yellow warning road sign is posted along Interstate 5 near the San Ysidro crossing and north of San Diego. The sign shows a man and a woman running as the woman pulls a girl with pigtails along, her feet barely touching the ground. San Ysidro is the world's busiest land border crossing, with more than 17 million vehicles and 50 million people crossing legally in 2005. The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, developed this warning sign after more than 100 undocumented immigrants were killed on the highway, especially near border control points. After trying a wordy and ineffective sign that read, "Caution Watch for People Crossing Road," Caltrans assigned graphic artist John Hood, a Vietnam veteran of Navaho parentage, to develop the new sign. Posted in 1990, it quickly became a cultural icon for those who tolerate and those who oppose immigration, both legal and illegal.

Migration in borderlands such as the California/Mexico crossing have attracted academic attention as a phenomenon of globalization. In 1990 and 1991, almost 3.5 million immigrants were admitted legally to the United States—a number larger than at any previous point in American history, and as of 2009, over 25 million people in the U.S. are foreign born, excluding illegal immigrants. In some urban Southern California counties, the majority of residents are immigrants, and many of these are children who require schooling, health care, and other services. Academic study of immigration tracks both the reception of immigrants among the resident population, and the interaction of the immigrants with the destination country. Of the 24 million Americans in the United States today who migrated since 1960, 40% came as children.

The phenomenon of migration is as old as the evolution of human beings, which predates even the concept of world history. The interlocking relationship between human evolution, migration and the diaspora is best understood through the migratory nature of humans; a significant epoch in world history. The scientific evolution of humans, beginning with the oldest man-ape; Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis to the modern Homo Sapiens all reflected the necessity of migration for survival and security. The United States of America has been known as the world largest migrant destination which hosts a conglomerate of world migrant communities from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

How to Cite This Source
Peter Adebayo Primer: Migration and Diaspora in World History in World History Commons,