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Learning to be Oromo: Nationalist Discourse in the Diaspora

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Processes of migration, diaspora and exile offer diverse and complex environments for the renegotiation of social identities. Immigrants and refugees must not only adapt to the material circumstances of uprooting but must also confront, maintain or recreate a sense of self, often in contexts which are vastly different and fraught with constraints, in which they are removed from their familiar social networks and in which their previous identities may be of little meaning or relevance to the new society. In confronting an altered social status and radically different circumstances, individuals may be required to come to terms with a new or reconstructed sense of ethnic or national identity. This process is not only a personal one but involves affiliations with others who engage in similar interpretations and adaptive strategies and enmity toward those who do not' Field, 1994: 432 . Such a process can be seen as part of the phenomenon of transnationalism, the process by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement' Basch et al., 1994: 7 . One important aspect of transnationalism is the role that immigrants and refugees play in political activities in both their countries of origin and residence, and their political commitment often has important implications for their sense of self, particularly when those political activities are directed towards the creation of a new homeland for oppressed minorities. This paper examines the role played by diaspora intellectuals in promoting a nationalist discourse which calls for the creation of an independent state for the Oromo, who constitute one of the largest ethnic populations in Africa and the manner in which their participation in such discursive activities allow them to engage in a reconstruction of their own identities and in the shaping of national and personal senses of the self.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 1996

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