Like a Tumbleweed in Eden

The Diasporic Lives of Concepts

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
Banu Subramaniam University of Massachusetts Amherst

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People, plants, and animals travel; so do theories, ideas, and concepts. Concepts migrate across disciplines—from the sciences to the humanities and back—often repurposed to theorize new objects in new contexts. Many terms span species and disciplines, from human contexts in ethnic studies, post/colonial studies to scientific/biological terminology: native, alien, local, foreign, colonizer, colonized, naturalized, pioneer, refugee, founder, resident. In this article, I explore concepts around mobility and “migration” and how the values and political contexts accompanying these concepts circulate across geopolitical and scientific terrains. In extending theories of migration to examining the history of science, I explore the migrations and diasporic lives of concepts.

Contributor Notes

Banu Subramaniam is Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Email:

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