Re-Imagining Identities: Racial and Ethnic Discourses within Seattle’s Habesha Community
My research explores the means by which identities of “non-white” Habesha (Ethiopian and Eritrean) immigrants are negotiated through the use of media, community spaces, collectivism, and activism. As immigrant subjects who don’t have a longstanding historical past in America, Habesha face the challenges of having to re-construct and negotiate their identities within American binary Black/White racial landscapes. Through close readings of various media I will critically analyze the moments in which Habesha immigrants challenge narratives of race and identity in the American context. I hypothesize that while Habesha immigrants sometimes assimilate into American constructions of race, at other moments they create counter-narratives of hybridity, exclusive ethnic identities like Habeshaness, or maintain purely national identities as Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants, in an effort to defer perceived racial stereotypes and oppression that arise from identifying with an undifferentiated black identity.