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Accepted Paper:

“All that nonsense that comes with a life insurance is not there”-insurance associations in the Ethiopian diaspora in southern California  
Sophia Thubauville (Frobenius Institute)

Paper short abstract:

One of the most celebrated life rituals in Ethiopia, is the funeral service. For the Ethiopian community in the US it is important to hold this celebration according to cultural norms. The paper discusses the recent increase in informal insurance associations that were established for that purpose.

Paper long abstract:

Southern California has an Ethiopian diaspora population that goes back to the socialist revolution in Ethiopia in the early 1970s. Because of political and economic reasons, this population increased immensely around the turn of the millennium. With around 50,000 members, this is one of the largest diaspora communities in the US, the country that hosts with 500,000 the largest Ethiopian diaspora worldwide.

One of the central and most celebrated life rituals in Ethiopia, is the funeral service. For most members of the community it is important to hold this important celebration in the USA according to cultural norms or to repatriate the deceased to their home country. Both options are very expensive and require the help of others in implementation (be it in the preparation of Ethiopian food or knowledge of American export laws).

From the beginning of their settlement in southern California, Ethiopians organized their own insurance associations. At that early time they were few in numbers and in size, more informal and intimate. Around ten years ago, once many members of the population became more settled, many new insurance associations were established to give a culturally appropriate farewell to deceased members of the community. Apart from being more formalized, these new organizations are much larger and therefore more anonymous. In my presentation, I would like to trace the development of these companies and explain what still distinguishes the large insurance companies from insurance companies and what does not.

Panel P179a
Afterlife counts: the economics and materiality of funerals and dealing with death [AGENET]
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -