Art Term


Diaspora is a term used to describe movements in population from one country to another and is often cited in discussions about identity

Sonia Boyce OBE, ‘From Tarzan to Rambo: English Born ‘Native’ Considers her Relationship to the Constructed/Self Image and her Roots in Reconstruction’ 1987
Sonia Boyce OBE
From Tarzan to Rambo: English Born ‘Native’ Considers her Relationship to the Constructed/Self Image and her Roots in Reconstruction 1987
© Sonia Boyce

In relation to art, the term diaspora is used to discuss artists who have migrated from one part of the world to another, (or whose families have), and who express their diverse experiences of culture and identity in the work they make; often expressing alternative narratives, and challenging the ideas and structures of the established art world.

Stuart Hall’s ideas on identity

Jamaican-born cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall, Widely known as ‘godfather of multiculturalism’, published an important essay called Cultural identity and Diaspora in 1990. In it he addresses issues of identity in relation to cultural practice and production and explains the experience of the migrant as one of dislocation, displacement and hybridity (a mix of experience and cultures). Through his investigations, based on the experiences of the Caribbean diaspora, he came to the conclusion that individuals have more than one identity: they have one that is based on similarities and a unity which comes from belonging to a shared culture; and one that is based on an active process of identification, that responds to points of difference and is therefore always evolving through ‘a continuous play of history, culture and power.’

This has become a potent subject in art and can be related to movements in art like relational aesthetics and altermodern.

Related terms and concepts

  • Relational aesthetics

    Term created by curator Nicholas Bourriaud in the 1990s to describe the tendency to make art based on, or inspired ...

  • Altermodern

    Altermodern is a term coined by curator Nicolas Bourriaud in 2009, to describe art made as a reaction against standardisation ...

  • Identity politics

    Identity politics is the term used to describe an anti-authoritarian political and cultural movement that gained prominence in the USA ...

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Selected artists in the collection

Selected artworks in the collection

Diaspora at Tate

  • Tate Modern


    Mona Hatoum

    4 May – 21 Aug 2016
    A comprehensive exploration into 35 years of Hatoum's work in Britain, from her early performance and video works to ...
  • Tate Britain


    Migrations: Journeys into British Art

    31 Jan – 12 Aug 2012
    Migration at Tate Britain explores British art through the theme of migration from 1500 to the present day
  • Tate Britain


    Artist and Empire

    25 Nov 2015 – 10 Apr 2016

    This autumn Tate Britain presents a major exhibition of art associated with the British Empire from the 16th century to ...