University of Sussex
Breines, Markus Roos.pdf (1.93 MB)

Pursuing progress: urban-urban migration and meanings of being middle class in Ethiopia

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posted on 2023-06-09, 07:40 authored by Markus Roos Breines
Over the past two decades, major political, economic and social shifts have reshaped hierarchical relations in Ethiopia. The country has seen new dynamics of ethnic power relations and a rapid expansion of higher education, while the government’s authoritarian developmental discourse has permeated people’s lives and influenced their everyday perspectives on modernity and progress. Taking these conditions as its starting point, this thesis examines how people have responded to social change as individuals and in connection to relationships with others. It interrogates how these broader patterns of social relations have transformed through urban to urban migration – an important form of migration in Ethiopia, yet one that is largely unexamined within studies of Ethiopian migration. To understand the sociocultural dimensions of these processes, this thesis analyses the formations of hierarchical relations in terms of class, drawing strongly on Bourdieu’s (1984, 1986) class theory and elaboration of cultural, material, social and symbolic capital. Through an emphasis on the contextual values of capital in Ethiopia, this thesis focuses on how migration to modern places creates the opportunities for new interactions with people of diverse backgrounds. In doing so, the thesis analyses how urban to urban migration shapes the possession and use of various forms of capital. The study employs higher education, ethnicity and progress as lenses to identify how everyday social processes surrounding urban to urban migration produce social distinctions. The ethnographic research that led to this analysis drew out the intersections and tensions between physical movement and social mobilities by relying on a multi-sited approach, with research carried out in Adigrat and Addis Ababa. Throughout, the thesis explores its central aim, which is to interrogate the role of urban to urban migration in generating a group with distinct cultural practices and shared characteristics that can be described as being middle class in contemporary Ethiopia.


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