This panel engages with diaspora in East-Central Africa, notably around the Great Lakes. (Trans)local connectedness rather than origin is the starting point to understand diaspora as process. Historical case studies as well as methodological and theoretical reflections are welcome.
Studies on African diasporas are still mainly focused on communities of African origin outside of Africa, or on communities of Indian, Arab or European descent in Africa. This panel particularly pays attention to diaspora groups from Africa who settled in another part of the continent. The panel looks at different types of diasporic community in one particular region, namely East-Central Africa, with its remarkable history of population movements, and situates them in their particular (local and translocal) historical contexts. Focusing on the wider area around the African Great Lakes, which is criss-crossed by national, colonial and ecological borders and where commercial, language and religious spheres intersect, allows us to engage with the dynamics of diasporas on the ground while, at the same time, offering instructive contributions to the mainstream of diaspora studies. We take the locality of residence rather than memories or myths of origin as starting points to tackle diaspora as process. Aspects of diaspora lifeworlds, including relations to their living environments, shifting relations to their (alleged or real) 'homeland', and expressions of belonging expressed, inter alia, in popular culture, religion or associational life, are important subjects to be explored. We invite empirical approaches with a historical dimension and a (trans)local focus, addressing the making and perhaps unmaking of diaspora communities around the Great Lakes. We also welcome reflections on the methodological challenges of historicizing diasporas in the East-Central African context in general.