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[ecrea] Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, Volume 15, Number 2/3, Fall/Winter 2006

Mon Mar 21 21:37:26 GMT 2011

Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, Volume 15, Number 2/3, Fall/Winter 2006 is now available at

Special Issue: Creating the Ethiopian Diaspora: Perspectives from Across the Disciplines


Kay Kaufman Shelemay and Steven Kaplan


This essay offers a general introduction to the volume's papers, providing the necessary background information about their genesis and relationship to other relevant publications within Ethiopian, African, and diaspora studies. The concept of diaspora and its relevance for the Ethiopian experience is discussed, providing a historical overview of Ethiopian movement abroad, culminating in the mass exodus sparked by the 1974 revolution. The essay explores the topic of cultural creativity in critical perspective, offering definitions of creativity and its relationship to Ethiopian concepts, along with an overview of the essays, a note on technical matters, and acknowledgments.

On Cultural Creativity in the Ethiopian Diaspora

Donald N. Levine


This brief introduction to the essays in this volume offers commentary on the conference that generated them while expanding on its central theme, "creative incorporation," drawn from the author's 1974 book, Greater Ethiopia. The essay provides a provisional semantic matrix that defines four types of creativity: in problem-solving; in finding new ways to combine existing elements; to provide for spontaneous expression of energies; and to invent novel forms. The conclusion suggests that all of these processes occur among Ethiopians in diaspora, where they are inflected by the intensity that Ethiopians manifest in their attitude toward their homeland.

"Whatsupoch" on the Net: The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Shaping of Transnational Ethiopian Identity

Nancy J. Hafkin


The Ethiopian diaspora is using the Internet increasingly to reflect on its identity, to forge new communities, and to promote cultural innovation. This essay tracks the close association of information and communication technologies (ICTs) with the emergence of the Ethiopian diaspora since 1980, setting forth a series of brief case studies illustrating the role of ICTs among different Ethiopian ethnic communities. It documents the manner in which ICTs shape socialization and address questions of return to homeland; it also explores the way in which Ethiopians have exploited new media and their technical innovations. The essay concludes with an account of ways in which freedom of expression and access to technology enable diaspora Ethiopians to have public discussions and circulate critiques of Ethiopian politics and culture that could not have taken place in Ethiopia, which is not only at the bottom of the digital divide but has exercised censorship over a number of homeland Ethiopian Web sites and blogs.

Vital Information at Your Fingertips: The Ethiopian Yellow Pages as a Cultural Document

Steven Kaplan


In the last decade of the twentieth century, Yellow Pages, the well-known business directories that effectively advertise services in fairly standardized formats, have been published by entrepreneurs for various ethnic communities, including Ethiopians. This essay reads the Ethiopian Yellow Pages (EYP), published for the Washington, DC, area, as a cultural document, interpreting it as a text in which issues of identity and community are represented by and for members of the Ethiopian community. The essay provides a detailed overview of the EYP in its thirteenth edition, covering the year 2006/2007, surveying its structure; its target area; and the wide array of services, venues, and institutions that advertise in its pages. The discussion concludes that the EYP is much more than an instrument for providing information and access to services: It both captures the mundane aspects of life in America and highlights the specific features of an ethnically distinct immigrant population's journey of cultural creativity, which reverberates in both their new and their old homelands.

Transnational Politics in Ethiopia: Diasporas and the 2005 Elections

Terrence Lyons


Beginning with a discussion of new political processes in transnational social networks, this essay presents Ethiopians in North America as a conflict-generated transnational diaspora closely involved in homeland politics. The essay surveys a range of key diaspora political organizations and media, detailing their involvement in the dramatic political events surrounding the Ethiopian election in 2005. The critical and creative roles that the Ethiopian diaspora played—in framing political events and as a gatekeeper for opposition strategies—provided essential support for the homeland's opposition parties both during and after the election.

Creating Sacred Space: Orthodox Churches of the Ethiopian American Diaspora

Marilyn E. Heldman


This essay examines the creation of places of worship by Ethiopian Orthodox congregations in North America, focusing primarily on the District of Columbia and adjacent areas in the states of Maryland and Virginia. Following a discussion of the historical background and development of church architecture in Ethiopia, the essay demonstrates that the shaping of the interior space of Ethiopian Orthodox churches in North America follows a modern model developed in Addis Ababa during the early 1960s. The study concludes with a brief analysis of painted decoration, a necessary component of the sacred space of an Ethiopian Orthodox church.

Ethiopian Musical Invention in Diaspora: A Tale of Three Musicians

Kay Kaufman Shelemay


This essay, based on ethnographic interviews and observation, discusses the lives and careers of three prominent Ethiopian musicians from sacred, folkloric, and popular musical domains (Moges Seyoum, Tesfaye Lemma, and Mulatu Astatke, respectively) whose individual initiatives have shaped the musical life of the Ethiopian diaspora during its formative years in the United States. These three careers provide an overview of musical activity within the Ethiopian American diaspora community since its inception and shed light on concepts of creativity as conceived both in the Ethiopian homeland and among the immigrant musicians profiled. The conclusion suggests that the ability of each man to negotiate the transition to diaspora life varied according to the musical domain in which he was engaged, his personal background, and the moment and circumstances of his arrival in the United States.

Amharic Poetry of the Ethiopian Diaspora in America: A Sampler

Getatchew Haile


This essay offers the first English-language translations of Amharic poetry written by Ethiopian immigrants to the United States. Following an introduction to the Amharic language and the central place of poetry in Ethiopian literature and cultural life, the author discusses the work of four poets. The poems of Tewodros Abebe, Amha Asfaw, Alemayehu Gebrehiwot, and Alemtsehay Wedajo make creative use of Ethiopian verbal constructions reminiscent of traditional war songs and verbal interrogations used in legal contexts. Many of the poems speak eloquently of the personal losses Ethiopians have suffered as a result of their departure from their homeland. The essay includes biographical and ethnographic details about the individual poets and various influences on their compositions.

S?dät, Migration, and Refugeeism as Portrayed in Ethiopian Song Lyrics

Solomon Addis Getahun


This essay explores the history of the concepts of s?dät (migration) and s?dätäññannät (refugeeism), tracking the changing Ethiopian perspectives on separation from homeland as conceived and conveyed through song lyrics. After detailing traditional Ethiopian notions of s?dätäññannät, the author surveys song lyrics about Ethiopians living abroad, first in military service in Libya (1911–1930) and in Korea and Japan (1950s), then for educational purposes in Europe and the United States (1945–1974). In contrast to either silence or negativity about s?dätäññannät in songs about these earlier periods, lyrics dating from after the emergence of the Ethiopian diaspora (1974–present) invoke the concept as an integral part of Ethiopian life, moving it from a term of shame to a desirable status with connotations of success and initiative.

Slow Awakening? The Ethiopian Diaspora in the Netherlands, 1977–2007

Jan Abbink


This essay offers a preliminary account of the development of the Ethiopian diaspora in the Netherlands, charting the process of community formation among Ethiopian immigrants posited within a five-phase diaspora developmental model (DDM) that has theoretical applicability to a wide array of migrant groups. The discussion traces the various stages in the emergence of the Ethiopian community in the Netherlands, suggesting that by 2007, the community had reached stage 4 of the DDM, a juncture at which people abandon plans to return to their homeland and invest in lives in the host country. The important transition to stage 4 was achieved in 2007 as a result of the dual impact of a new Dutch Law giving most Ethiopians resident status and of initiatives connected to the widespread celebration of the Ethiopian Millennium on 11 September of that year. The discussion ends with consideration of how the community will likely develop as a whole and what the prospects are for creative opportunities, given its small size and the restrictive social and institutional environment of Dutch society.

A Response: Doro Fänta: Creativity vs. Adaptation in the Ethiopian Diaspora

James C. McCann


Invoking the common dish doro fänta ("substitute chicken stew"), served without either its traditional chicken or hard-boiled egg, as a metaphor for cultural and economic change since the Ethiopian revolution began, this short response to the volume's essays queries whether doro fänta is a metaphor for expressive invention or an adaptation of structure without substance. Following comments on a number of the essays appearing in this volume, the discussion suggests that their subject matter is more complex than the Ethiopian homeland study to which the notion of creative incorporation was originally applied. The paper ends with a brief case study of Ethiopian cooking and cuisine as aesthetic knowledge of identity and as a domain in which market forces have encouraged deviations from historical structures of taste, meaning, and processing of food.

Diaspora is dedicated to the multidisciplinary study of the history, culture, social structure, politics, and economics of both the traditional diasporas – Armenian, Greek, and Jewish and the new transnational dispersions which in the past four decades have come to be identified as ‘diasporas.’ These encompass groups ranging from the African-, Chinese-,Indian-, and Mexican-American to the Ukrainian- and Haitian-Canadian, the Caribbean-British, the Antillean-French, and many others.

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