The concept of diaspora usually presupposes cultural connections between multiple communities of a dispersed population who feel, maintain, revive, or reinvent a connection with an imagined homeland in various ways. The concept of identity provides an important framework for conceptualizing individuality, community, and solidarity, and a tool to understand the complex social experiences of diasporic lives. However, the traditional essentialist concept of identity—which conceives a single aspect of identity such as race (i.e., Chinese) as the fundamental essence of an individual’s experience—has been delegitimized by postmodernists because of its inability to capture the multiplicity, fluidity, and dynamics of identity as process and in process. The postmodernist discourse insists no single frame can represent the truth about individual’s experiences and histories since they are socially constructed and dynamic. In this book we contest the postmodernist view on identity and argue that socially embedded essentialism has been and is still the fundamental organizing principle of human interactions. One of the most important functions of identity, we insist, is providing a means of understanding one’s social location in diasporic life.
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