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The Dispersion

A History of the Word Diaspora

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Stéphane Dufoix

Winner of the 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award

In The Dispersion, Stéphane Dufoix skillfully traces how the word “diaspora”, first coined in the third century BCE, has, over the past three decades, developed into a contemporary concept often considered to be ideally suited to grasping the complexities of our current world. Spanning two millennia, from the Septuagint to the emergence of Zionism, from early Christianity to the Moravians, from slavery to the defence of the Black cause, from its first scholarly uses to academic ubiquity, from the early negative connotations of the term to its contemporary apotheosis, Stéphane Dufoix explores the historical socio-semantics of a word that, perhaps paradoxically, has entered the vernacular while remaining poorly understood.

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Dorrit van Dalen

The seventeenth century was a period of major social change in central sudanic Africa. Islam spread from royal courts to rural communities, leading to new identities, new boundaries and new tasks for experts of the religion. Addressing these issues, the Bornu scholar Muḥammad al-Wālī acquired an exceptional reputation. Dorrit van Dalen’s study places him within his intellectual environment, and portrays him as responding to the concerns of ordinary Muslims. It shows that scholars on the geographical margins of the Muslim world participated in the debates in the centres of Muslim learning of the time, but on their own terms. Al-Wālī’s work also sheds light on a century in the Islamic history of West Africa that has until now received little attention.