Seminar: Memories of revolutionary engagement among Ethiopian-Israelis: Redefining identity and social position

Illustration seminar David RatnerDespite a proliferation of studies concerning Ethiopian Jews (formerly known as "Beta Israel") and their lives while still in Ethiopia, a highly interesting topic that has so far been neglected is their involvement in the turbulent period of the 1974 revolution and the civil war that followed (ending 1991).

The present study, based on 18 in-depth interviews with Ethiopian-born Israelis, shows that some members of the community were indeed deeply involved in these historical events, as political activists and/or as military rebels in one of two major political parties: the TPLF and the EPRP.

After a short historical introduction, the first part of the talk will discuss the central themes that emerged from the interviews: (1) the deep identification with universal and contemporary ideologies of revolutionary change (2) the deep solidarity and identification with Ethiopia and with the organizations they belonged to, (3) abandonment of revolutionary ideology and politics after arrival in Israel.

By employing a theoretical framework of memory studies, the second part of the talk will discuss possible reasons for the complete disregard of this chapter in the (much discussed) history of the community, as well as the possible effects of this oblivion to the lives and status of this community in Israeli society.

The last part of the talk will discuss the possible contribution of this research for the ongoing debate about the meaning of the revolutionary period in Ethiopian public discourse, as well as possible meanings for the study of the Ethiopian diaspora (and African diasporas in general).

Date, time and location

22 June 2017
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 1A27 (first floor)