Reda: Ethiopian Diasporic Cuisine: Food, Identity, and Transnational Lifeways of Ethiopian Migrants in Atlanta

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Ethiopian Diasporic Cuisine: Food, Identity, and Transnational Lifeways of Ethiopian Migrants in Atlanta This dissertation explores the intersection of identity, race, migration, and food consumption by investigating the culinary practices of three generations of diasporic Ethiopians and the identity they negotiate through (re)construction and consumption of Ethiopian national (Habesha) cuisine in the context of racial and Christian-centered religious ideology of the US South. Habesha, by strict definition, refers to people from Northern Ethiopia, particularly Amhara, Tigray, and smaller ethnic groups. However, in the diasporic context, Habesha has been employed as a ‘pan-Ethiopian’ identity, despite its northern Ethiopian roots. ‘Ethiopian’ restaurants, for example, while claiming national identity, in fact base their menus on Habesha culinary traditions from the north. As such, more than two thirds of Ethiopia’s ethnic diversity is not represented by this (Habesha) culinary tradition, and yet, in the diasporic context, Ethiopian immigrants find themselves intersecting with and negotiating Habesha identities; food and culinary practices are an ideal location to unravel the many threads of complex identities. Diasporic generations experience hybrid identities and make use of their histories of immigration and food choices to navigate juxtaposed ethno-racial complexity while simultaneously negotiating American racial constructs in their everyday diasporic life. I investigate this as a cultural anthropologist and as a member of the Ethiopian diaspora in the U.S. Preliminary studies undertaken in 2017 and 2018 reveal that Ethiopian diasporic households in Atlanta use Habehsa cuisine as a normative cultural practice to negotiate inclusion and obscure the power relations between various ethno-cultural and generational categories. This project focuses on approximately 47 multigenerational households of Ethiopian diaspora belonging to diverse ethno-racial, religious, and cultural groups. Focusing on migrant food practices of the Ethiopian diaspora, whose consumption or avoidance of Habesha cuisine serves as a basis of ethnic representation, this study will investigate what this cuisine means to multi-generational diasporic Ethiopians and others. Household strategies to access healthy and affordable food and social ties varies based on generational categories, ethnic identities, and social statuses. The central research question asks how the diasporic practices of Habesha cuisine differently situate the identity of the Ethiopian diaspora in Atlanta, GA, and how differences in interpretation of the metaphors displayed in these culinary practices create meaning and value to multigenerational diasporic households.
Effective start/end date4/15/225/31/23


  • Lambda Alpha: $2,000.00


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