Accepted paper:

The Ethiopian Buna (Coffee) Ceremony: Exploring the Impact of Exile and the Construction of Identity through Narratives with Ethiopian Forced Migrants in London

Author:

David Palmer (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reports on oral history interviews undertaken with Ethiopian forced migrants in London, about the traditional Buna (coffee) ceremony. The PhD study indicates that the Buna ceremony plays a significant role in the construction of identity and in determining well-being in exile.

Paper long abstract:

The loss of social networks, customs, rituals, authority structures and institutions, through which forced migrants had previously engaged and negotiated their sense of self on a daily basis, is key to an understanding of the experiences of migration and, in particular, its impact on personal well-being. This paper reports on oral history interviews undertaken with 41 Ethiopian refugees in London, about the traditional Buna (coffee) ceremony. Buna is generally accompanied by popcorn and/or traditional Ethiopian dishes.Thes tudy indicates that the ceremony plays a significant role in the construction of identity and in determining wellbeing in exile.It was evident that the ceremony provides opportunities to preserve cultural heritage as a strategy for overcoming forms of social isolation and disadvantage. The ceremony enables participants to meet, talk, support; and especially where mental distress is associated with loss of support, the ceremony can be viewed as a mutual self-help group, where individuals are involved in the maintenance of well-being. The ceremony in exile acts as a foundation for community relationships and allows members to share their skills and knowledge in support of each other and the wider community. The ceremony as practiced in the UK is thus evidently more than simply a gathering for coffee; in addition to the attachment to the coffee itself and the traditional ritual proceedings surrounding the Buna event, the ceremony can also be seen to provide insights into the complex and challenging ongoing processes of settlement, adaptation and identity management, experienced by the participants in exile.

panel PE28
Anthropology of food and nutrition in the globalized economy