In Atlantic world diaspora studies, culture and identity have been foundational concepts in analysis of the meaning and significance of diaspora. This essay argues that the centrality of these concepts is signal in reproducing a contradiction in diaspora theory that undermines its contemporary revisionist intentions. On the one hand, there is emphasis on hybridity and fluidity, while, on the other, diasporas are often encapsulated as discrete, implicitly or explicitly racialized groups, notably African and Indian or Asian. The essay considers key theoretical approaches in diaspora studies and their relationship to this contradiction, compares the deployment of culture and identity in Afro and Indo/Asian diaspora studies, and suggests that looking at the differences and compatibilities between material bodies (diasporic humans and their made objects) and immaterial bodies (diasporic spirits) is a potentially fruitful direction in recognizing the limits of culture and identity and their relationship to racial discourse in diaspora studies.

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