The word "diaspora" is derived from the Greek word diasperien . It denotes the dispersion of a population group or community of people from their country of birth or origin. Overseas diasporas or transnational communities are created by international migration, forced or voluntary, and are motivated by economic, political, and colonial factors. During classical antiquity, "diaspora" referred to the exodus and exile of the Jews from Palestine. Later historical references to "diaspora" are associated with the slave trade and forced migration of West Africans to the "New World" in the sixteenth century. Twentieth-century formations include the Palestinian and Armenian diasporas. More recent diasporas originate from the Caribbean, Latin America, South and East Asia, and Central Europe. As a subject area and critical category of study, diaspora has become a theoretical tool in film studies, ethnic studies, and cultural studies, among other fields, and resonates in debates and critiques of migration, identity, nationalism, transnationality, and exile.
The second half of the twentieth century, referred to by some demographers as "the century of migration," is distinguished by the magnitude, direction, and composition of international migration, with women now constituting nearly 50 percent of international migrants. Several factors have accelerated the movement of people across borders: globalizing economic processes linked to the internationalization of capital and the labor market, the cumulative effects of political instability caused by ethnic strife and civil wars, population pressures, environmental degradation, human rights violations, and the decline of transportation costs. Taken together, these factors, along with worsening poverty that compounds the already vast inequalities among the world's 6.4 billion population, account for the "global migration crisis" at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It has affected an estimated 175 million people, who now reside outside their country of origin and whose destination increasingly is North America, Asia, and Western Europe. Globalization and geopolitics, along with the rise of transnational media, accelerate diasporic formations. Constituting "new" and hybrid ethnicities, diasporas disrupt the cultural and social practices of the societies they inhabit. They also contest accepted ideas about Western modernity and nationhood, especially racialized constructions related to citizenship.