Axel, Brian. The
“Diaspora.” Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.
“What makes a certain people a ‘diaspora?’” and “Where is the homeland?” are principal questions Axel asks in The
Body. Axel chronicles the formation of Sikh communities and the fight for Khalistan, an autonomous Sikh nation, and questions whether sharp distinctions can be made between diasporas and homelands. In fact, he argues, the limitations of some contemporary scholarship theorizing diasporas has been the tendency to treat the homeland as a point of origin. Such work is flawed, he asserts, because the paradigm in which it operates requires one to reduce the diaspora to that which is inauthentic, a replica. Challenging this logic, Axel inverts the paradigm and asserts that it is through the diaspora that the homeland is constituted. In this regard, he restores a sense of motion to theorizing the circulation of ideas, information, and, yes, bodies between diasporas and homelands. Yet, despite his criticism, Axel firmly insists that there are limitations to questioning the categories diaspora and homeland. In this way, Axel attempts to distance his work from scholars who have argued that homelands and diasporas are “imaginary”—work that he argues has resulted in an odd spatiotemporal duality, wherein the homeland is understood to be a lost relic of a past time, and the diaspora a present configuration—while also disputing the utility of constructing such firm distinctions.