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Ghosts and Shadows

Ghosts and Shadows: Construction of Identity and Community in an African Diaspora

Atsuko Matsuoka
John Sorenson
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Ghosts and Shadows
    Book Description:

    Focusing on African diaspora groups that have been virtually ignored in discussions of Canadian multiculturalism, the authors explore the re-creation of communities in exile and the myths of 'homeland' and 'return.'

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7532-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. MAP
    (pp. xiv-2)
  6. ONE A Ghost Story
    (pp. 3-25)

    This book examines the influence of the past. It looks at how the past continues to affect the present in the lives of diaspora populations; it is, in other words, a ghost story. While we focus on experiences of exiles from the Horn of Africa, the implications are much broader. Paying attention to ghosts and shadows allows us to understand aspects of social imagination, ways of knowing and being, that are neither purely subjective nor objective. From antiquity, exile has constituted the ‘classic image of individual misfortune and tragedy,’ characterized by helplessness, rejection, and wandering (Pellizzi 1988: 154). Yet at...

  7. TWO A Haunted House
    (pp. 26-55)

    Wars and political repression have ravaged the Horn of Africa for decades, creating huge refugee movements and casting long shadows over diaspora communities. The contours of those communities were shaped partly by struggles for control of states and by redefinitions of history and identity. In turn, the states that expelled them were haunted by exiles who supported antigovernment forces in the Horn. Therefore, if we are to perceive the dynamics of the diaspora, we must understand the nationalist politics in the region. In this chapter we outline the struggles in the Horn that shaped individual and community identities in diaspora;...

  8. THREE Shadowlands: Diaspora Movements
    (pp. 56-76)

    The Horn of Africa has for decades been one of the world’s main refugee-producing areas. Conflicts in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan have generated huge numbers of refugees; tides of human misery have swirled in all directions across the borders of these countries into the shadowlands of exile. If we include the internally displaced – those living in refugee-like circumstances within their own countries’ borders – the number of refugees had reached six million by 1980. Although their needs were as great, the internally displaced were not recognized as refugees and therefore received no international assistance. Their numbers increased throughout the...

  9. FOUR Exile, Memory, Identity
    (pp. 77-117)

    A haunting suggests more than a visit from the spectre of a dead person (although it is wrong to assume that the dead do not exert a powerful ghostly influence); in Gordon’s words, ‘to be haunted is to be tied to historical and social effects’ (1997: 190). Here we add that to be haunted is also to be tied to embodied mythical experiences. Exiles experience these haunting effects most sharply as they are forced into spaces in which they must confront ghosts from the past while their present and future lives seem cast in a play of shadows. In such...

  10. FIVE Gender Relations in the Diaspora
    (pp. 118-142)

    Exiles face new conditions and adopt new roles; they transform themselves amid the ghosts and shadows of expectations, behaviours, and relationships, which once provided order and stability but now must be questioned. For diasporas created by political violence, life in the new world is haunted by ghosts from the old. In these haunted spaces, individuals must work ‘to transform a shadow of a life into an undiminished life’ (Gordon 1997: 208).

    Many transformations are played out most intensely within households, where fissures between past and present expectations often develop along lines of gender. We wish to expand theories of diaspora...

  11. SIX Abyssinian Fundamentalism and Diaspora Mythico-Histories
    (pp. 143-168)

    Exiles who rejected both the Derg and its opponents found themselves cast into a domain of dark shadows; bitterly surveying spectres of their former homeland, they felt their own narrative constructions of identity, history, and social order threatened in fierce battles between those who had usurped control of Ethiopia and those who sought to divide it. Their dilemma became more complicated in the late 1980s as EPLF and TPLF forces won substantial victories and Mengistu’s downfall appeared imminent. The Derg’s collapse in 1991 and the establishment of new governments in Eritrea and Ethiopia sparked furious political activity in the diaspora....

  12. SEVEN More Real Than a Shadow
    (pp. 169-197)

    Ghostly spaces of exile offer diverse and complex environments for renegotiating social identities. While adapting to the material circumstances of uprooting, exiles must confront, maintain or recreate a sense of self; and they must do so in contexts that are vastly different from the old, familiar networks and fraught with constraints. Their previous identities have little meaning or relevance to the new society. In confronting their altered social status and their radically different circumstances, they must come to terms with a new or reconstructed sense of ethnic or national identity. This process is not only personal but involves ‘affiliations with...

  13. EIGHT Phantoms of Identity and ‘Race’
    (pp. 198-222)

    Diasporas are haunted sites where identities are created, accelerated, and transformed by various institutions and conflicting forces. Long-distance nationalists experience these struggles as extremely intense and meaningful; yet they are enacted in circumscribed spaces, and identities that exiles consider to be highly significant may be mere phantoms for others. The Canadian public has little understanding of or concern for African issues, which receive scant media coverage. Somewhat exceptional to this are Ethiopia, because of startling reports about famine in the 1980s, and Somalia, because of Canadian military intervention in the 1990s (with subsequent scandals involving racism, the murder of Somali...

  14. NINE Ghostly Returns
    (pp. 223-242)

    Diasporas are haunted by myths of return. In 1991, the war’s end in Eritrea and the establishment of a new government in Ethiopia opened possibilities for this long-imagined return. Those in the diaspora had to assess their situation and make choices about the future. A few did return immediately; some insisted they would return after certain other conditions (related to education, children, finances, and so on) had been met. Others came to see their situation as one of permanent displacement, which led to reflection on the future of their communities in diaspora. In this chapter we examine the contradictions associated...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-256)
  16. Index
    (pp. 257-261)