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I'm reading an essay on diaspora and I've come across the words "dispersion" and "dispersal" used several times throughout the text.
Is there any relevant difference between these two terms/concepts?
I quote a paragraph to give you a context:
"Where diaspora seems to refer to dispersion, diffusion and migration movement the very term may enhance monolithic notions of culture and identity. Yet the dispersal of large groups of peoplethroughout the world generates hybrid and heterogeneous societies [..]
Many thanks
  • Gwan

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    To me, 'dispersal' would be the act of spreading out across a space. 'Dispersion' is the result of this act. So first there was an act of 'dispersal' (the Jews spread out from Israel, for example) and then the Jewish people were in a state of 'dispersion', living in many countries.

    When the cat's away...

    Senior Member
    Spain - English
    Both are nouns, obviously, and the way I see it is that dispersion refers to the act in general of (forced) migration and dispersal refers more to the act of forcing the migration. I don't know if this is clear, but I hope it helps.


    many thanks. Your suggestions help me a lot.
    I think my confusion comes from the ambiguity of the Italian use: we've only one word ("dispersione") for indicating both the process and the result.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    a. The action of dispersing; = DISPERSION.

    1. The action of dispersing or scattering abroad; the condition or state of being dispersed; scattering, distribution, circulation.
    Early applied to the scattering of the Jews among the Gentiles after the Babylonian Captivity; whence sense 5.
    5. the Dispersion: The Jews dispersed among the Gentiles after the Babylonian Captivity; the scattered communities of Jews in general, or the communities in some single country, as the Egyptian Dispersion; = DIASPORA.

    These OED definitions suggest no difference in meaning, but perhaps some difference in the usage, depending on context. I suppose you could say that ends up as a difference in meaning, but perhaps only someone who routinely uses the terms distinctively would be able to explain the difference.
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