A Fractured Transnational Diaspora: The Case of Zimbabweans in Britain

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Abstract

Millions of Zimbabweans living abroad have been described as an emerging diaspora. However, there has been little attempt to question their designation as a diaspora, or indeed, to engage with the more theoretically informed and conceptually rich literature on diaspora. The assumption in this categorisation relies heavily upon popular usage of the term diaspora among Zimbabweans themselves both abroad and in the homeland. However, instead of suppressing discussion by simply pronouncing them “a diaspora”, it is important to examine whether or not they constitute a diaspora. Drawing on the concepts of diaspora and transnationalism and on the author’s multi-sited ethnographic research in the United Kingdom (hereafter, “Britain”), the article examines how the diaspora was dispersed, how it is constituted in the hostland and how it maintains connections with the homeland. What factors influenced people’s decisions to migrate into the diaspora and how can these phases be classified? What types of migration patterns characterise Zimbabweans’ migration to Britain? The study explores the origin, formation and articulation of the Zimbabwean diaspora in Britain, providing a conceptual and theoretical interpretation of the social formation vis-à-vis other accounts of global diasporas. The findings of this study suggest that Zimbabweans abroad are a fractured transnational diaspora. The scattering of Zimbabweans evinces some of the features commonly ascribed to a diaspora such as involuntary and voluntary dispersion of the population from the homeland; settlement in foreign territories and uneasy relationship with the hostland; strong attachment and connection to the original homeland; and the maintenance of diverse diasporic identities. The study represents a contribution to our knowledge of the Zimbabwean diaspora in particular and to the field of diaspora and transnational studies in general.

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