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Hope Is Cut

Hope Is Cut: Youth, Unemployment, and the Future in Urban Ethiopia

Daniel Mains
Series: Global Youth
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Hope Is Cut
    Book Description:

    How do ambitious young men grapple with an unemployment rate in urban Ethiopia hovering around fifty percent? Urban, educated, and unemployed young men have been the primary force behind the recent unrest and revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. Daniel Mains' detailed and moving ethnographic study,Hope is Cut, examines young men's struggles to retain hope for the future in the midst of economic uncertainty and cultural globalization.

    Through a close ethnographic examination of young men's day-to-day livesHope is Cutexplores the construction of optimism through activities like formal schooling, the consumption of international films, and the use of khat, a mild stimulant.

    Mains also provides a consideration of social theories concerning space, time, and capitalism. Young men here experience unemployment as a problem of time-they often congregate on street corners, joking that the only change in their lives is the sun rising and setting. Mains addresses these factors and the importance of reciprocity and international migration as a means of overcoming the barriers to attaining aspirations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0481-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Series Editors’ Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Craig Jeffrey and Jane Dyson
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Youth, Hope, Stratification, and Time
    (pp. 1-24)

    In the mornings and evenings, when the sun does not burn with such an extreme intensity, the street corners of Jimma, Ethiopia, are crowded with unemployed young men. They stand with their hands in their pockets sharing gossip, cracking jokes, and occasionally tossing out a mild insult at a passerby. These young men often joke that the only change in their lives is following the shade from one side of the street to the other with the passing of the sun. In neighborhoods with more commercial activity, the unemployed share the streets with young men working as shoeshines, barbers, bicycle...

  7. 1 The Historical and Cultural Roots of Unemployment and Stratification in Urban Ethiopia
    (pp. 25-42)

    Young men’s struggles for hope emerge out of the particular class and status hierarchies of urban ethiopia. This chapter examines the history of the city of Jimma and changing patterns of stratification in urban ethiopia more broadly. I begin by examining shifts in class and status hierarchies during the mid-twentieth century and then trace these dynamics up to the present situation. The second half of this chapter is devoted to describing some of the qualitative dynamics of space within Jimma. Although I argue thaturban, as a general term, is useful in grouping different types of space within a single...

  8. 2 Imagining Hopeful Futures through Khat and Film
    (pp. 43-66)

    A key dynamic of life for youth in Africa and much of the global south at the beginning of the twenty-first century has been the growing gap between aspirations for the future and economic realities. As young people fail to attain aspirations, they become frustrated with an inability to place their own lives within a hopeful narrative (Hansen 2005; Jeffrey, Jeffery, and Jeffery 2008; Ralph 2008; Schielke 2008; Weiss 2004a). Worries about one’s future are compounded by the excessive amounts of free time that are associated with unemployment. In this context the imagination takes on great importance. For youth, the...

  9. 3 “We Live Like Chickens; We Are Just Eating and Sleeping”: Progress, Education, and the Temporal Struggles of Young Men
    (pp. 67-86)

    “We live like chickens; we are just eating and sleeping” was often repeated to me by young men who were frustrated with their inability to achieve their aspirations. they contrasted a life of “eating and sleeping” or “simply sitting” with one that involves “progress.” Living like chickens implies that life lacked meaning, simply moving here and there without any purpose besides filling one’s stomach. Ideally most young men aspired to a life course consisting of a series of linear and incremental improvements. For the most part, however, young men were uncertain whether they would ever move out of their parents’...

  10. 4 Working toward Hope: Youth Unemployment, Occupational Status, and Values
    (pp. 87-112)

    In his analysis of urban young men’s unemployment in Ethiopia, Pieter Serneels (2007) argues that long-term unemployment is largely a result of rational decision making aimed at economic maximization. “The average young unemployed man in urban Ethiopia has a strong incentive to wait in unemployment for a ‘good job’ in the public sector” (serneels 2007: 182). His argument is based on the wage differential between employment in the public sector and other forms of available employment, the likelihood of eventually obtaining a public sector job, and the average length of time spent waiting for work. From the perspective of an...

  11. 5 Hopeful Exchanges: Reciprocity and Changing Dimensions of Urban Stratification
    (pp. 113-134)

    During my first few months of living in Jimma and studying unemployed young men, I was continually confronted with an apparent mystery. The spectacle of unemployed young men standing about on the street was everywhere. These young men complained of joblessness and frequently asked me for small amounts of money. The same young men, however, spent much of their time chewing khat and watching films, both activities that require money. How was it, I wondered, that unemployed young men always seemed to have a bit of money in their pockets?

    A simple answer to this question gradually became apparent: unemployed...

  12. 6 Spatial Fixes to Temporal Problems: Migration, Social Relationships, and Work
    (pp. 135-154)

    In previous chapters I describe how young men experienced unemployment as a problem of time. Many young men believed that their temporal problems could be addressed with spatial solutions, particularly international migration, preferably to the United States or Europe. In the narratives of young men, time was experienced differently outside ethiopia. As Alemu, an unemployed young man in his late twenties, put it, “I can do more in six months in America [the united states] than I can in five years in ethiopia. in America there is progress.” In this chapter, I describe the variable ways that migration was conceived...

  13. Conclusion: Sustaining Hope in the Present and the Future
    (pp. 155-170)

    When I returned to Jimma in 2008, after being away for three years, I quickly noticed that the street corners were not nearly as crowded with young men as they had been in years past. Certainly idle young men could still be seen passing their time in the shade, but a definite change had taken place. One of my first stops was at Haile’s house. The atmosphere at Haile’s house was also different from before. Haile sat in the same place as usual, on a wooden stool on the veranda, but that day he was joined by just one friend....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 171-178)
  15. References
    (pp. 179-186)
  16. Index
    (pp. 187-193)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 194-194)