SEESOX webinar: What's in a name? The classical Greek and Jewish diasporas and implications for the present

Posted on 10 February 2022

On Wednesday, 2 February SEESOX organised an online panel discussion with Robin Cohen (International Migration Institute, University of Oxford), Renee Hirschon (St Peter's College, Oxford) and Manolis Pratsinakis (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS)) on the history of the notion of diaspora.

This seminar took the form of a dialogue between Robin Cohen and Manolis Pratsinakis, chaired by Renée Hirschon. The story starts with an obscure scholarly debate about whether the expression 'the Greek Diaspora' can be applied to the early colonies in southern Italy and Sicily (Magna Graecia) or (for example) the settlements around the Black Sea. A 'war of the footnotes' emerged as the use of this denotation was vigorously contested by religious scholars and those interested in historical semantics. Were these settlements more like the Jewish diaspora than first thought and was the early Jewish diaspora also mischaracterized? Ultimately, the debate turns on two axes -- the mix of voluntary and involuntary migration and the how much or how little the movement was directed and organized. What are the implications for present-day diasporas and the current Greek and Jewish diasporas?


Robin Cohen is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, and Former Director of the International Migration Institute, University of Oxford. He is Senior Research Fellow at Kellogg College. He has held full professorships at the Universities of the West Indies and Warwick and taught also at the Universities of Ibadan, Birmingham, Stanford, Toronto and Berkeley. He served as Dean of Humanities at the University of Cape Town (2001/3) and directed the nationally designated UK Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at Warwick (1985/9). His books include Labour and Politics in Nigeria (1974, rev. 1982), Endgame in South Africa? (1986), The New Helots: Migrants in the International Division of Labour (1987, 1993, 2003), Contested Domains: Debates in International Labour Studies (1991), Frontiers of Identity: The British and the Others (1994), Global Diasporas: An Introduction (1997, rev. 2008, 2012), Global Sociology (co-author, 2000, rev. 2007, 2013), Migration and its Enemies (2006) and Encountering Difference: Diasporic Traces, Creolizing Spaces (co-author 2016). He has edited or co-edited 21 further volumes, particularly on the sociology and politics of developing areas, ethnicity, international migration, transnationalism and globalisation. His major works have been translated into Danish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish. He was principal investigator on the Oxford Diasporas Programme funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2011–15).

Manolis Pratsinakis is Departmental Lecturer in Migration Studies and the Onassis Fellow at SAME and COMPAS, University of Oxford. He is also the Deputy Project Manager of the SEESOX Diaspora project. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow at DPIR, University of Oxford, Marie Curie fellow (IF) at the University of Macedonia (2015-2017), a visiting fellow at the University of Sussex (2016) and a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam (2013-2015). His academic interests broadly concern the study of migration and nationalism. He has done research and published on immigrant-native relations, ethnic boundaries and categorization, everyday nationhood, migration decision-making, brain drain, and intra-EU mobility in the post-2008 period. Manolis has studied Geography and Sociology (with honors) and completed his PhD in 2013 in Anthropology. His MA studies were supported by a Nuffic Huygens Scholarship and his PhD research by an IKY scholarship from the Dutch and Greek state respectively.

Renée HirschonBA Cape Town, MA DPhil Oxf, was educated at the Universities of Cape Town, Chicago, and Oxford.  She was Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University befire becoming Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of the Aegean from 1987 and Chair of the department until 1998. She has long been a Research Associate of the Refugee Studies Centre, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford. She is currently Senior Research Fellow at St Peter's College, and a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of the European Studies Centre and of South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX) St Antony's College, University of Oxford. Her major study was among Asia Minor refugees who settled in Piraeus, Greece, following the 1923 Lausanne Convention which specified the compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey. This resulted in the monograph Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe (2nd edn., 1998). Her most recent publication, an edited volume Crossing the Aegean (2003, 2004), is a bilateral appraisal of the long-term effects of 'ethnic cleansing' on both countries. She is concerned with the relevance of anthropological knowledge to contemporary conditions, and her research interests include migration, cosmology, gender, and linguistic behaviour.

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