Daniel Keith THOMPSON, JR.
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationEmory U.
Grant numberGr. 9478
Approve DateApril 25, 2017
Project TitleThompson, 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
DANIEL K. THOMPSON, then a graduate student at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, received a grant in April 2017 to aid research on “Capital in the Borderlands: Diaspora Investment and the Borderland Economy in Jigjiga, Ethiopia,” supervised by Dr. Peter D. Little. This project investigates how Somali emigrants who previously fled from their homeland in eastern Ethiopia have reshaped the regional economy by returning to invest following decades of conflict. The study begins with a historical analysis of how so-called “ethnic” and “clan” conflicts in the Horn of Africa were shaped by policies increasing the political salience of ethnic identities, even though many groups in the borderlands area cannot be slotted into official ethnic categories. Somalis living in Ethiopia were for decades marginalized and vilified in Ethiopian politics; secessionist conflict drove a massive exodus of Somalis. Today, thousands of Somalis who fled as refugees and previously supported secessionist rebels are returning from the global North to pour their life savings into investments in the city of Jigjiga, the provincial capital in what was a war zone only a decade ago. The research traces the wave of diaspora return to regional administrative shifts in 2010, and shows how the new alliance between emigrants and the regional government has driven rapid urban development while also increasing disparities in wealth and opportunity and creating new gendered dimensions of urban informality. The system contributed to its own demise by opening up space for diaspora dissidents with democratizing agendas.