Seminar – To be yemeni, To remain so
To be Yemeni, to remain so
Women territories among Yemenis in Djibouti
Date : Vendredi 21 février 2020, 14h00-15:30 / Date: Friday, February 21st, 2020, 2:00-3:30pm
À / Venue: Berhanou Abebe Library, French Center for Ethiopian Studies (JanMeda https://goo.gl/maps/sutSritp3MU2)
Yemeni immigration to Djibouti has been taking place for over a hundred years. The capital of the country, founded on the impetus of French settlers, came out of the ground from the work of builders, fishermen and farmers, originating from the Yemeni coast. Their immigration had been organized by merchants trading in the region, themselves coming from the British colony of Aden, the Central region around Ta‘iz and Hadhramaut. Many of them later returned to Yemen or settled in another country but those who remained were mostly naturalized French, then Djiboutian, since the independence in 1977. Then, they brought their families from Yemen and integrated into the life of the country. They are now known as “Arabs of Djibouti “.
However, another part of Yemeni immigration to the capital remained male-only labor immigration, experienced as temporary. Many retail traders from the Ta‘iz region, who used to travel back and forth and invest in Yemen, have brought their families to Djibouti more recently, and particularly since the start of the war. It is within this peculiar group that I conduct my study. For those who do not speak French or even not hold Djiboutian nationality – despite a link with the country throughout several generations – they tried to preserve their Yemeni identity as best as possible.
This role falls to women: they live in territories of female homosociability bordered by “ethnic boundaries” (BARTH, 1969) substitutes for the loss of Yemeni territory within which women from the same region and the same tribes do socialize, bound together by endogamous marriages ties. This sexual segregation which attributes interior spaces to women is part of an attempt to social distinction, a consequence of the Yemen-Djiboutian borders crossing which affected them. Yet, the end of the “illusion of the provisional” (SAYAD, 2006) calls into question the hermiticity of these borders and the link between identity and territory: Yemeni women start undertaking the learning of French with their children and some even seek work …
Morgann Pernot is a Master student in Sociology (Sciences Po) and Arabic language (Inalco). She studied Arabic language in Egypt (University of Alexandria) and Jordan (University of Jordan) and graduated in social science (Sciences Po) and philosophy (La Sorbonne). Her Master’s Thesis focuses on Yemeni women’s migration experience in Djibouti through the prism of spatial and social borders and boundaries.
Source illustration : Morgann Pernot