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The social reproduction of Jamaica Safar in Shashamane, Ethiopia

The social reproduction of Jamaica Safar in Shashamane, Ethiopia
Shelene Gomes


Department of Social Anthropology, St Antony's College, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AJ, UNITED KINGDOM.


Since the 1950s, men and women, mainly Rastafari from the West Indies, have moved as repatriates to Shashamane, Ethiopia. This is a spiritually and ideologically oriented journey to the promised land of Ethiopia (Africa) and to the land granted by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I. Although migration across regions of the global south is less common than migration from the global south to north, this move is even more distinct because it is not primarily motivated by economic concerns.

This thesis - the first in-depth ethnographic study of the repatriate population - focuses on the conceptual and pragmatic ways in which repatriates and their Ethiopian-born children “rehome” this area of Shashamane that is now called Jamaica Safar (or village in the Amharic language). There is a simultaneous Rasta identification of themselves as Ethiopians and as His Majesty’s people, which is often contested in legal and civic spheres, with a West Indian social and cultural inscription of Shashamane. These dynamics have emerged from a Rastafari re-invention of personhood that was fostered in West Indian Creole society.

These ideas converge in a central concern with the inalienability of the land grant that is shared by repatriates, their children, and Rastafari outside Ethiopia as well. Accordingly, the repatriate population of Shashamane becomes the centre of international social and economic networks. The children born on this land thus demonstrate the success of their parents’ repatriation. They are the ones who will ensure the Rastafari presence there in perpetuity.