Daniel Keith THOMPSON, JR.

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Emory U.

Grant number

Gr. 9478

Approve Date

April 25, 2017

Project Title

Thompson, Jr., Daniel K., Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'Capital in the Borderlands: Diaspora Investment and the Borderland Economy in Jigjiga, Ethiopia,' supervised by Dr. Peter D. Little

Preliminary abstract: This project investigates how diaspora return has refigured processes of place-making in the borderlands where Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State abuts the self-declared Republic of Somaliland. The city of Jigjiga, a hub of trade between Ethiopia’s highlands and the coastal ports of Somalia and Somaliland, became a regional capital with Ethiopia’s ethnic-federal decentralization during the 1990s. Encouraged by the creation of an ethnic Somali ‘homeland’ in Ethiopia, diaspora returnees have flocked to the city since 2008. In Jigjiga, they reunite with relatives, construct houses, establish businesses, and support the development of Somali Region. While remittance networks connected the diaspora to local relatives amidst decades of displacement, ‘part-time’ diaspora return to Somali Region is reworking relationships and interests along two axes. First, cross-border traders and urban retailers whose activities undergird the local economy face new forms of competition from diaspora investors. Second, diaspora returnees have drawn friends and family members from across the region to migrate to Jigjiga, creating new relations among clans and new interactions among indigenous business and political interests. This study draws on theory and comparative research from urban anthropology and borderlands studies to assess how the influx of diaspora return and investment has reshaped the political economy and social relations of the city and surrounding borderlands. Network, geospatial, and survey analyses will explore the shifting diaspora and local cross-border networks that center upon the city; in-depth interviews and ethnography will investigate how diaspora return has influenced socio-economic perceptions and strategies, and socio-political allegiances.