with globalization creating new classes of diaspora based on economic motivations in ateeming world of nomadic individuals and communities from everywhere living and/or interacting everywhere—the concept of diaspora has become the most accurate overalldescription of present cultural relations and human situational practices.In this paper I will examine change and development in Chinese diaspora populations inthe United States, which have encountered the entire range of diaspora experience, old andnew, from 1850 to the present day. My aim is threefold: 1) to comparatively sketch new ideasin diaspora studies, add to them where I can, and employ them in an analysis of individual andcommunity identity construction in the Chinese diaspora, while comparing and contrastingthese experiences with those of the Jewish and black diasporas;
2) to present a four-stagemodel of diasporic literary production and attendant personal and community identityconstruction, through which I will examine varied examples of Chinese American writing; and3) within this model, to give extended attention to Chinese-American writer Maxine HongKingston’s
(1980), a pivotal text defining and describing Chinese Americandiaspora identity and experience in the United States.
I shall conclude with a look forward, andthoughts about possible new conditions modifying “new diasporas.”
1.Diasporas Then and Now
Diaspora studies, in various guises, has a long history, with various strands of meaninglinking impacted communities. “Classic” views of diaspora—loss of an “original center” andyearning desire for return and renovation of the homeland (the Jewish diaspora), forced massdiasporas (the black African experience during the slavery era), diaspora stemming fromcenturies of conquest by foreign powers, dispersing a people into areas mostly near their homelands (the Armenian diaspora), or volatile areas of heavy migration along frontiers of coterminous peoples and cultures (such as the North American experience in Canada, the3