30th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 27-28, 2010

Lesley Abrams, "Diaspora and Identity in the Viking Age"

The anthropologist Steven Vertovec has recently (re)defined diaspora as ‘the consciousness of being connected to the people and traditions of a homeland and to migrants of the same origin’. Although this concept was developed to apply to the contemporary world, it can afford a new perspective on Scandinavian overseas settlements in the Viking Age. Shared language, material culture, social infrastructure, mythology, and memory were constituent parts of a Scandinavian identity that linked the diaspora communities to the homelands and to one another. This connection was perpetuated in part by continuing contacts between the overseas settlements and Scandinavia. But identity in the diaspora was not simply a transplanted, fossilized, duplication of homeland society and culture. It was also generated internally, and – in those settlements in regions already occupied by established societies – it developed in relation to the culture around it. In my paper I propose to investigate how identity was shaded by the different conditions of the new environments, applying the ideas of connection and evolving identity to explore the dynamic of the diaspora experience in the Viking Age.


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