From time to time I am reminded of the field of diaspora study, and usually my own personal role in such matters. It is not something I think about on a daily basis, but it is something that tends to color a great part of my life and how it is that I relate to others as well as to issues like sports and culture. Yesterday evening as I write this I was in my usual watering hole and I happened to be sitting alone at a table watching football and in the table next to mine there were a couple of people. After we chatted with each other about the progress of the game, which was highly entertaining, I found out that one of the other people had been from the Pittsburgh area, and when I commented on my own birthplace we found that we were close to the same age and had come from areas not far from each other, and we commented as well that so many people from Pittsburgh and its surrounding area have gone far and wide in search of better opportunities and a safe life free of the violence that can be found in the old hometown.
It is possible to be a part of many diasporas. As it happens, the part of Pennsylvania where I spent my early childhood is both part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area as well as part of Northern Appalachia, and thus my own diaspora from that region–a complicated story to be sure–and there are different ways that one can be a part of different groups and different things it says about someone to be a part of such different groups and to be reminded about where one is from on one occasion or another.
One of the defining aspects of life in the Pittsburgh area is the cheering on of sports teams from Pittsburgh from afar. There is few else that is emblematic of being part of a disapora group than to share in the same cultural behavior as other people while doing so from a very long distance. Such a thing helps us to know not only that we are a part of disaspora groups in doing these things from afar but that we are a part of the same diaspora community as other people who share the same culture as we do.
After all, most of us may act alone in cheering on a team that is far away from us, or being familiar with what is going on and with what happened in areas that are far from us that still remain to take away our attention and interest in such a way that leads us to think of what has and is going on in faraway lands. Jerusalem, if I fail to remember thee, and all that. Yet by virtue of the fact that the pull is shared between ourselves and others, such distant ties may form to unite us with other people into the same community that is made up of all other exiles who, like ourselves, are united by the fact that we came from another place, and that we have some sort of loyalty and memory of a place that is not where we now are. We are not fully strangers, after all, and not fully acculturated to where we now happen to reside. We have something that pulls us backwards even as we are borne further and further into the future.