Diaspora unbound: Muslim identity and the erratic regulation of Islam in France

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38 Scopus citations


Despite the apparent innocuity of the diaspora concept, it has not escaped critical reflection and sustained debate. Some have bemoaned its obscurantist fetishism, and in particular its reliance on 'ethnic essentialism', while others defend it as a useful metaphor for explaining at least some types of migrant communities. In terms of the latter, Sayyid (2000) argued for a Muslim umma - a shared identity that may be considered 'diasporic'. While he certainly had reservations about its use, he argued that reference to a diasporic umma need not imply unanimity among those supposedly divided by seemingly more ontologically grounded social categories such as class and gender. In this paper, then, I tread a path between the critique of diaspora as an essentialist concept, and how we might employ Sayyid's conceptualisation in the context of Maghrebin (North African) migrants in France during the 1980s and 1990s. In particular, I seek to demonstrate how the state in both Algeria and France shaped the relationship between Islam and identity among Muslims of Maghrebin origin in France.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-364
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Population Geography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Algeria
  • Diaspora
  • Ethnic essentialism
  • France
  • Islam
  • Umma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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