Title

RACIAL AND ETHNIC IDENTITY WITHIN THE ETHIOPIAN DIASPORA IN THE UNITED STATES AND THEIR POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT IN ETHIOPIA: THE CASE OF THE WASHINGTON, DC METROPOLITAN AREA

Date of Award

July 2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Embargo Date

3-8-2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

African American Studies

Advisor(s)

Goshu W. Tefera

Keywords

Diaspora, Ethiopia, Identity, Pan Africanism, Political engagement, Transnationalism

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

This research looks at ethnic and racial identities of Ethiopians in the Washington DC metropolitan area in relation to efforts aimed at upward mobility and regarding their political involvement within their country of origin. It is based on eight interviews with Ethiopian immigrants, a historical analysis, as well as my involvement with the wider

Disapora community through my internship with the Government of the District of Columbia Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (MOAA) during summer 2015. This allowed me to interact with local community groups and leaders, as well as observe public events held by members of the Ethiopian Disapora. The findings indicate that racial and ethnic identity can influence upward mobility as well as political engagement. It argues a sense of Ethiopian nationalism or ethnic affiliation is expressed in part through affiliation with, and display of, particular versions of their home country's flag, providing a public yet low-key way of political engagement. World Systems and Marxist theories are used to show that ‘race’ is one of the major markers of identities in the United States, where the mode of production is capitalism. Ethiopians’ self-identification in terms of race and ethnicity does not matter necessarily because the state and the system of production in the United States locate them along a racialized spectrum of belonging. Since class is mediated by race, racial identity is not something they want to take on but it is forced up on them. As part of the larger population of Black immigrants, Ethiopians find themselves lumped into a certain category by the dominant society and thus bond along racial, regional or ethnic lines. As I observed during my internship at the MOAA, although Ethiopians tend to associate more amongst themselves socially, they appreciate their collective identity in the work place and other public spaces. The study also attempts to explore the connection between racial and ethnic identity and political engagement, particularly the politics of nationalism. Lastly, it draws on the broader implication of Ethiopia’s Pan-African consciousness claiming that the country’s development is closely connected to its ability to make a common cause – not just at political level – with African nations regionally, continentally and globally.

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