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The Idea of Diaspora as the Condition of Subjectivity in Lily Cho’s Essay "The Turn to Diaspora"

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Diaspora is identified as the displacement of people from their homes transferred to a new homeland. Diasporic people face critical challenges as they tend to experience a change of lifestyle in their homeland and try fitting into a new identity. These diasporic individuals can be divided into different categories such as class, gender, religion, language, and sexuality. Diasporic individuals have numerous forms of identity. However, in Lily Cho’s essay “The Turn to Diaspora,” she argues that diaspora can be seen as a condition of subjectivity. Cho claims that they are just a group of people, or communities, who share similar race, history. But, only people with power get to define who is diasporic and who is not. Additionally, Cho believes that these diasporic communities share geographical and historical similarities, which bring their sense of connection together. This essay will examine conditions of subjectivity through the power and diasporic experiences which shape their history of displacement as an individual/groups and the significance that helps towards their diasporic identities.

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In Cho’s essay, she explores the idea of diaspora being the condition of subjectivity. She states that diaspora is not just communities or a group of people who are distributed and share similar values through race, history, or religion. But rather “they have relation to power”. Cho argues people with power are the ones that get to define diaspora. People with power are dominant in those stories which allow them to shape the identities of diasporic communities. Due to this, many stories are identified as the societies norm of the “single story.” As the dominant people’ stories are only heard, many experiences of others are left untold. The untold narratives are explained by those who are in dominated positions that create this “single story.”

Cho gives an example of the Jewish and Armenian diaspora. Many Jewish individuals lost their lives by Romans at Masada due to Romans power. This demonstrates people with power can overrule and take individuals lives. In addition, people with authority have the power to dislocate diasporic people from their communities and their identities. As those people are forced to be dislocated, they face many hardships as individuals and communities. For example, those individuals and communities have to give up their homes, memories, and find a new identity in the forced diaspora. These losses can be seen as short-term, but some are life lasting which will continue to stay with an individual. Therefore, power plays a key role in the relation to diaspora and the condition of subjectivity.

Furthermore, she argues that experiences are what forms history. Diasporic experiences allow diasporic people to explain their struggle through the loss of their identity. Cho claims “diaspora emerge through losses which have already happened but which also define the future”. The struggle which many individuals go through to find their identity can also define the future. Those traumatic events destroy many lives and communities but play a key role in defining the history. History plays an important role as a condition of subjectivity. But, there is a long history of colonialism and the displacement of communities/people. For example, the black community faced many hardships through slavery. This has been an ongoing historical trauma which continues to influence many black diasporic identities. Cho states in the article, “… through the depths of histories that will not rest because they had no peace”. This explains that the black community had a harsh history with no peace as they continue to. The black community has faced hardships through diaspora and continue to do due to their race. Individuals and communities’ experiences allow powerful events in the history to be made.

Moreover, Cho’s essay plays a significant role in theorizing diasporic identities. Cho believes society is what constructs identities. Individuals receive their identities from the society which are given by people in power. In the essay, Cho states, “I hope to illuminate the relationship between diaspora and cultural studies”. Cho’s essay is significant because it is proving that diaspora and a person’s identity are two separate things. Many diaspora critics believe there is a relationship between those two but according to Cho there isn’t . Cho believes the only relationship they share is the disciplinary movements and as well as singular contributions which allow a sense of connection. She aims to demonstrate the difference between diaspora and identity as they should be seen as two different things. A person’s identity should not be given by diasporic events. In conclusion, diasporic individuals and communities face many hardships. These hardships are not only seen at the moment but create chaos for the future. People with power get to dominant individuals lives and the communities which only allow “single story” to be told. Through those single stories, many experiences are left untold which leaves significant parts of the history to be untold.

Overall, these events play such an important role in defining the experience of the people who become diasporic which leads history to be made.

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