Accepted Paper:

Who are the migrants? Amharic literature and Ethiopian official discourse on labour migration  
Nikolay Steblin-Kamensky (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography)

Paper short abstract:

The paper investigates different discourses on migration in Ethiopia and the Amharic concept of siddet central for the migration talk in the country. Siddet frames labour migration as a forced movement, but at the same time might be a viable alternative to the international discourses on migration

Paper long abstract:

In the last two decades labour migration to the Gulf has become essential life strategy for many Ethiopian families. Alongside with demographic event of migration the discourses on it have developed. Many NGO reports and academic researches are focused around the idea of trafficking, which depicts smugglers as one of the major course of irregular migration. This view has disseminated into the official Ethiopian discourse on migration which in spite of huge remittances is reluctant to include labour migrants into the development narrative. The government has invested into educational programs to teach people in communities about the harms of migration basically imposing a particular way to see migrants and smugglers. In Ethiopian talk on migration the term 'siddet' covers both voluntary and forced movement which creates an ambiguous situation. However, as many researches have shown the the notion of forced/voluntary mobility is questionable itself. The term 'siddet' has disseminated into Amharic literature and songs which became widely popular both in diaspora and among people in Ethiopia. Based on examples from the literature, I argue that 'siddet' has offered a new way of seeing Ethiopian identity in globalized world. Being blind to economic migrant/refugee dichotomy it creates unique solidarity and sense of unity both inside and outside the country.

Panel Anth31
Decolonising Africanist migration research? [CRG AMMODI]