‘Post-transitional’ directions in the Somalias — A Workshop

Horn of Africa seminar series workshop 

‘Post-transitional’ directions in the Somalias

April 30, 2013

12:00 pm

Nissan Lecture Theatre

St Antony’s College

University of Oxford

 

As Somalia’s Transitional Federal Charter was being wound down in August 2012, and particularly after the new Federal Parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president in September, a surge of sentiment — loosely organised around the keyword/hashtag ‘Somalia Rising’ — was channelled into discussions on Twitter and other social media and discussion fora.  By and large, commentators focused on the positive implications of the change of leadership taking place in Mogadishu.

After the establishment of a notionally permanent government in Mogadishu, that optimism is set to be tested.  However, long-standing assumptions about Somalia may also need to be questioned, in order to gain a better sense of what has changed, what has not, and what new challenges are ahead.  Related to the question of where Somalia is headed is the question of the state of ‘Somali studies’ after two decades of reduced access for external scholars and an impaired educational environment in Somalia itself.

This workshop will consider a range of political and social dynamics, grouped around two themes — ‘Futures in the Somalias’ and ‘The Future of Somali Studies’.  In addition, we will take advantage of the occasion to launch a special issue of the Journal of Eastern African Studies, guest edited by Markus Hoehne, Effects of ‘Statelessness’: Dynamics of Somali politics, economy and society since 1991.

The workshop is open to all, and will involve a mix of academic and practitioner voices.  Please register interest (or questions) by emailing Jason Mosley, the convenor of the Horn of Africa seminar, at jason.mosley@africa.ox.ac.uk.

 

Directions to St Antony’s College:

http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/about/directions.html

Programme

12:00 pm Doors open: Nissan Lecture Theatre
   
12:15 pm Welcome

Jason Mosley, African Studies Centre, Oxford University

   
12:30 pm Panel 1: Futures in the Somalias

Crisis and displacement; different solutions for different kinds of displaced

Laura Hammond, SOAS, University of London

 

The role of the constitution in relieving or fostering conflict

Mohammed Seid, Independent legal scholar

 

The evolving role of Islamist groups in Somali politics

Mohamed al-Hadi, Al-Shahid Centre 

 

Whither the fourth estate is post-Transitional Somalia?

Jamal Osman, ITN/Channel 4 News

 

Chair/Discussant: Sally Healy, Rift Valley Institute

   
2:30 pm Coffee break
   
2:45 pm Keynote

 

Transitional Justice in the Somali setting

Markus Hoehne, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

 

Discussant: Lidwien Kapteijns, Wellesley College, USA

   
3:45 pm Panel 2: The Future of Somali Studies

 

Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Turn of 1991

Lidwien Kapteijns, Wellesley College, USA

 

Insider-outsider and gendered dynamics for Somali researchers in Somalia

Siham Rayale, SOAS, University of London

 

State-building in Somali Studies: Future framework

Mohamed Ingiriis, Goldsmiths, University of London

 

Chair/Discussant: Markus Hoehne, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

   
5:30 pm Reception: JEAS special issue launch

 

Effects of ‘Statelessness’: Dynamics of Somali politics, economy and society since 1991

Guest editor: Markus Hoehne, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

   
6:00 pm Dinner (optional)

 

St Antony’s College

(at participants’ own expense)

 

 

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ICES Resolution on the Graziani Memorial

It’s been a while since the International Conference on Ethiopian Studies in Dire Dawa, but we just received a copy of the resolution regarding the Graziani memorial that was passed there and thought we should share – see below, and see our own comment on the issue here.

H.E. Mr. Giorgio Napolitano,

President of the Republic of Italy,

H.E. Mr. Mario Monti,

Prime Minister of the Republic of Italy

Your Excellencies,

The 18th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies was held in the eastern Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa from 29 October to 2 November 2012. The conference brought together three hundred scholars from twenty-six countries from all over the world. It was the latest in the series of conferences first held in Italy in 1959.

On the last day of the conference, we the participants noted with great dismay the erection in August 2012 of a monument to the Fascist war criminal Rodolfo Graziani in the town of Affile. The name of Graziani is associated with the worst atrocities of Italian Fascism in Ethiopia and, earlier, in Libya, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of Africans. He is remembered for vowing to deliver Ethiopia to Mussolini “with or without the Ethiopians”. He went on to fulfill that vow with indiscriminate use of chemical weapons and the massacre of thousands of Ethiopians. The notorious “Graziani Massacre” that followed the attempt on his life on 19 February 1937 was marked by brutal and inhuman killing of thousands of innocent Ethiopians. Targeted for liquidation in particular were a number of young educated Ethiopians. This was followed by the massacre in May of nearly three hundred monks and over twenty other Ethiopians in the medieval monastery of Debre Libanos. Continue reading

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Politicking about Ethiopian Cuisine with The Simpsons

By Alpha Abebe

Screenshot taken from video. Copyright: FOX Inc.

Screenshot taken from video. Copyright: FOX Inc.

As a child of the 80s and 90s growing up in North America, I was rather accustomed to hearing about Ethiopian conflict and famine on the news. However, one afternoon while my mother was watching The Young and the Restless in the living room, something caught my ear. A character casually suggested that the couple head to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. My adolescent mind was blown. How did the writers hear about Ethiopian food?! And who among them had the gumption to actually try it? Oh, and I sure hope they didn’t see the kitfo! Hitherto, I had only known Western and Ethiopian social spaces to exist separately, and the notion that the two could overlap truly fascinated me.

On November 13, 2011 an episode of The Simpsons aired, entitled “The Food Wife“. It featured a 3.5-minute segment where the family wearily stumble upon a Little Ethiopia enclave, but eventually find that they thoroughly enjoy the tastes and textures of Ethiopian cuisine. As foolishly entertaining as the show can be, The Simpsons is both a repository and icon of American pop culture and often provides great analyses on issues of contemporary global importance through satire. There’s much to learn from that two dimension dysfunctional family.

The following lines are taken from the opening scene of the segment, where Marge is horrified when her car breaks down in a dark and seedy part of town.

Bart: “Um, mom. Where are we?

Marge: “Nowhere scary” [as she hurriedly locks the car doors].

And later on in the segment when the family runs into some other non-Ethiopian characters at the restaurant:

Marge: “So did all of your cars break down?
Lisa: “Mom! They’re here on purpose. They’re foodies.

I presume that images of the neighbourhood were inspired by Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia strip, however the details mirror similar establishments found in other metropolitan cities across North America. Fairfax Avenue/Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, the U Street corridor in Washington, D.C., and Danforth/Greenwood in Toronto. These are all small but vibrant enclaves, lined with Ethiopian restaurants, convenience stores and clubs. Continue reading

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14th Annual Researching Africa Day Workshop

Call for Papers:

Researching Africa: The Flow of Research?

Saturday, 23rd February 2013 –  St Antony’s College, Oxford 

Researching Africa Day provides graduate students with the opportunity to network with fellow researchers, exchange information, discuss research strategies and develop ideas in a constructive, stimulating and engaging environment. The workshop is open to all graduates working on Africa within the disciplines of history, politics, economics, development studies, literature, anthropology, social policy, geography, public health and the natural sciences.

This year’s workshop, Researching Africa: The Flow of Research?, interrogates the process of researching Africa. We hope to explore how research progresses, as well as examine the issues and obstacles that confront researchers at various stages. We aim to question the idea that research always follows a sequence that begins in the library and ends on the word processor. We have divided the workshop into four panels that follow the accepted chronology of research, and we invite papers that either investigate these stages (from the acquisition of material to its presentation), or challenge their relationship to one another, in order to understand the ‘flow’ of research as it actually is.

The four panels are outlined as follows:

1) Accessing

How do we access material? From gaining ethical clearance, to finding our ‘field sites’ and negotiating ‘gatekeepers’, what issues and difficulties do we experience as researchers in Africa?

2) Acquiring

How do we acquire material? From archives and life histories, to images and data-­‐sets, what choices does the researcher make in the process of collection?

3) Interrogating

How do we interrogate our material? From grounding personal experience to the application of theory, how do we make sense of what we have gathered during fieldwork?

4) Presenting

How do we present our material? From the format to the content, what dilemmas are faced and what impact do we make as researchers?

We invite papers on the panels outlined above. Presentations should be between 12 and 15 minutes, followed by a discussion between the panellists and the audience. Please send an abstract of your paper of 200 words by 25th January 2013.

We welcome participation from students beyond Oxford. While the cost of travel is not normally reimbursed, appeals for assistance with travel expenses will be considered in exceptional circumstances. We have limited funding and encourage speakers to pursue funding opportunities at their home institutions first. Accommodation for those who wish to stay the night may be available at certain colleges at your own expense.

Please circulate this announcement to colleagues as widely as possible, and address your submissions and enquiries to:

Ed Teversham, Juliet Gilbert, Khumisho Moguerane, Organisers, Researching Africa Day 2013

RAD.23Feb.Oxford[at]gmail.com 

Call for papers in pdf format.

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Ethiopia: A country suspended in time?

By Alpha Abebe

Image Copyright: Alpha Abebe

In development studies, it’s become rather stale to critique Walt Rostow – the grandfather of neoliberal ideology – and his 1960 book The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. We’ve seemingly moved past the tempting notion that a country’s health can be measured along a linear path of economic growth. And it should go without saying that it is no longer useful or appropriate to talk about societies as “backward and traditional”. And the concept of ‘modernity’ –the idea that certain countries somehow exist outside of time and are waiting to catch up with the rest – is ironically outdated itself. However, one has to wonder whether mainstream representations of Africa have moved far enough away from these stubborn tropes.

I was left wondering this very thing after reading Mary Harper’s recent piece for BBC News Africa: Ethiopia’s ‘cupcake divide’ in Addis Ababa. From the title and content of the article, one gets the impression that the author was dumbfounded to stumble upon traces of 21st century existence in the middle of Africa. Her article is framed as a commentary on the rapid industrialization in Addis Ababa, juxtapositioned against the country’s chronic poverty and political uncertainty. However, this story is buried beneath a rather colourful depiction of Addis Ababa, a city apparently suspended between two centuries and trying to decide which to settle in:

“… Every time I go to Addis Ababa, more tall, sparkling buildings take me by surprise and confuse my bearings.

Continue reading

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‘We shall return’: elections, anxiety and prophecies in northern Kenya

 By Hassan Hussein Kochore

 Hassan Hussein Kochore writes about a ‘we shall return home’ narrative gaining traction in parts of northern Kenya. People are looking north to a post-Meles Ethiopia while worrying what the 2013 Kenyan elections will bring.

In his seminal work on nationalism, Imagined Communities (1983), Benedict Anderson suggested that a feeling of national community is produced by the knowledge that all over the nation people are performing the daily ritual of reading the same newspaper.  This idea is best captured in the name of our own Kenyan newspaper, the Daily Nation.  In Nairobi, one can take for granted the ease with which a newspaper can be obtained from the supermarket, roadside vendors, and hawkers in traffic jams or even by borrowing it from a fellow passenger in a matatu. Many matatus these days actually have a copy of the day’s paper and if you’re lucky enough to sit next to the driver, you can monopolize it. By the time you get to your destination, you’ll have read the whole paper for free!

Then picture a place where a newspaper is hard to come by, a place where you can only ever buy yesterday’s paper, asking a shopkeeper on a Monday morning, “Nipatie Sunday Nation ya leo.” (Give me today’s Sunday Nation). Welcome to Marsabit County in northern Kenya, the nation’s ‘B-side’. Northern Kenya has historically been marginalized, closed off from the rest of Kenya and development actors like the churches. It was only after independence that the Catholic Church, for example, was allowed to build schools in Marsabit. Roads are almost non-existent, with heavy trucks – the most popular means of transport – carving out new roads for themselves every few days in the sandy landscape. It still takes two days riding on the roof of a truck to get to Marsabit from Nairobi. Continue reading

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Somalia’s ‘Constructive Elite’ and the Challenges Ahead

Laura Mann reports from the first event of the Rift Valley Institute’s Nairobi Forum for Research, Policy and Local Knowledge – ‘A Somali Spring?’ A link to the podcast can be found at the end of the post.

On October 11th, the Rift Valley held its first ‘Nairobi Forum’. They invited Ken Menkhaus, Amal Ismail, Jabril Abdulla and Matt Bryden to discuss the post-election climate in Somalia. The former Kenyan ambassador to Somalia, Mohamed Abdi Affey, who was chairing the proceedings, joked: “We wanted to show Kenya what it means to be a democratic nation”.

All parties agreed that Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is a man who combines two clean hands with enormous street cred. There is reason for ‘cautious optimism’ even amidst the challenges ahead. Ken Menkhaus argued that it was not the election of this single remarkable man that was important, but the extensive support network behind him. Describing this network as a ‘constructive elite,’ Menkhaus clarified that this was not a mass uprising ‘Somali Spring’ but a civic mobilization of determined professionals tired of warlordism and ineffective foreign interventions alike. These individuals have been on the ground for the past 20 years, building hospitals, schools, universities and private businesses. They have spent the past 20 years “navigating the streets” as Ken Menkhaus put it. They have learnt how to negotiate deals with difficult parties, how to build trust across clans and most importantly, they know how to get things done. Jabril Abdulla added that these negotiating skills are important. The gradual expansion of the state will not just involve institutions, but people, some benign and some less palatable. Getting warlords to engage in politics is one of the key challenges.

Abdulla added that while elites had gotten him elected, there was nonetheless widespread public support behind his victory. He described how the public ‘legitimized’ the election by broadcasting the news on radios and televisions during the week following the election. However he also cautioned that there were some regions that did not share in the jubilation.

Nevertheless, as each of them said in turn, there is reason for cautious optimism. Continue reading

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