The Aesthetics of Diaspora: Ownership and Appropriation

Pnina Werbner*, Mattia Fumanti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


How are transnational aesthetics transformed and appropriated in the diaspora? In theorising the very possibility of a transnational aesthetics, our primary focus goes beyond cognition to aesthetics as 'sensuous participation' - the making of beauty, distinction and sensual pleasure as participatory performance, embedded and re-embedded in social worlds of literary art or celebration forged in diaspora. Going beyond current debates in the anthropology of aesthetics, we argue that the transnational appropriation of aesthetic literary and embodied performative traditions, objects, sartorial styles or foods in the diaspora points to the transformational power of mimesis: what appears on the surface to be derivative and imitative, taken from elsewhere, engenders authentically felt cultural competences and a sense of ontological presence. Thus it is that diasporic sociality and aesthetic cultural performance create the grounds for appropriation and ownership in the alien place of non-ownership, that is, in the diaspora, the site of exile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-174
Number of pages26
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013


  • Anthropology of aesthetics
  • embodiment
  • mimesis
  • sensuous performance
  • spatial inscription
  • transnationalism


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