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RSC Public Seminar Series, Michaelmas Term: Refugee Economies

Conveners: Alexander Betts and Naohiko Omata

In recent academic and policy arenas in forced migration, the issue of how to understand refugees’ economic lives has emerged as one of the most pressing agendas. This seminar series will therefore gather leading scholars who have been working on related issues in order to consolidate the empirical and theoretical knowledge of refugee economies. Speakers will be convened from diverse and inter-disciplinary backgrounds from anthropology, economics, and political science. In addition to knowledge building, this seminar series is intended to initiate nurturing wider networks of researchers working on economic lives of refugees and to establish a common space for exchanging ideas, discussing findings and challenges.

This week Dr Neil Carrier will address the topic 'Being Oromo in Nairobi's "Little Mogadishu": Eastleigh's Ethiopian refugees and their livelihoods'

Nairobi's Eastleigh estate is famous for its Somali population, and for the vibrant commerce that emerged following the arrival of thousands of refugees fleeing civil war in Somalia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, while nicknamed 'Little Mogadishu', Eastleigh is home to a much more varied population than this name suggests, and among the other ethnicities (and nationalities) who live there are Oromo, a refugee community from Ethiopia. This paper highlights their lives in the estate, from their journeys to reach it, to their incorporation into Eastleigh's economy and the sense of moral community that aids this incorporation. It also contrasts their relationship to the estate and its economy with that of Somalis: while Eastleigh is a place in which many Somalis in the wider diaspora invest and return, for Oromo, Eastleigh is generally a place they hope to survive before leaving for greener pastures, rarely to return.

About the speaker

Dr Neil Carrier is Departmental Lecturer in African Anthropology at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford. Neil is involved in the teaching of the Centre's MSc in African Studies and also teaches and supervises graduate students in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. He has been involved in a wide range of research, mostly focused on the anthropology and history of East Africa and its diaspora. He has been working on a project examining the Somali-dominated Nairobi estate of Eastleigh as part of the Oxford Diasporas Programme team, exploring the historical and cultural underpinnings of Eastleigh’s diaspora-driven economy. Neil also maintains his interest in the topic of Africa and its drug trade which developed out of his earlier research on the stimulant khat, and he has developed this interest in his recently published book 'African and the War on Drugs', which he wrote in collaboration with Gernot Klantschnig.