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Abstracts of dissertations

National Identities Versus Cultural Identities: Beta Isreal Community
Yohannes, Abrham G/Michael

Prof. Dr. Andreas Vasilache
Bielefeld University

Year of completion 2014

language of dissertation English

  • National Identities
  • Cultural Identities
  • Beta Israel Community
  • Transnationalisem
Areas of Research
  • Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations
  • Social Classes and Social Movements
  • Migration
The following study will focus on structure of national and cultural identities of ‘beta-Israel’ community especially on people over the age of forty who lived in Ethiopia at least until the age of twenty, and then left to Israel. Beta Israel, ‘The Flashes’ or Ethiopian Jews, are a community of people practicing a form of pre-Talmudic Judaism separated from the larger Jewish world, lived in Ethiopia for millennia. Scholars believed that they have been lived in Ethiopia earlier than the Ethiopian Axum dynasty accepts Christianity in the fourth century. Most of the beta Israel communities are to be found in the mountainous highlands of Gondar region, north of Lake Tana in Begemdir, in the Wollo and Tigre provinces. This relatively small community lived surrounded by traditional, dominant, ethio-semitic language speakers and orthodox Christian society in Ethiopia, and since 198os within modern, white, dominant, Semitic language speaker and Jewish society in Israel. Or shortly can be stated as, they have distinction from Ethiopian Christian and United with Ethiopian Christians at the same time distinctions from Western Judaism and Unity with Western Judaism. It is presupposed that, a critical sight of the study will help to address the social and economic problems of the community faced in Israel.
Consequently, the thesis will endeavor to describe the following four aspects. First it describes the beta Israel community’s national identities with the respect of social identity theory, self-categorization theory and segmented assimilation theories in both communities. Second the cultural identities of the beta Israel community from the concepts of Heritage cultural practices, enculturation, ethnic identity, and feminism will be described. Third, the impact of the two societies (Ethiopian and Israel) over the identities construction of the community’s that from the hegemony cultures, ethnocentrism and cultural relativism and the product biculturalism aspects. And fourthly, the research will attempt to describe the salient variables in the construction of beta Israel identities and the divergences, convergence of the national and cultural identities of the community.
The research will apply as tools of collecting data, to measure the original scale of the individual as well as collectivistic attitudes of national and cultural identities of the community, a series of semi-structured interviews for about one hundred beta Israeli with immersion observation method will be used for about fourteen months in Ethiopia as well as Israel. The study will utilize as main variable that is age, to select the focus group so the study will target on people over the age of forty. Even though the research will be conducted in English, the data collection will be carried out in Amharic and Tigrigna languages since the whole subject group and the researcher speaks these languages as mother languages and translated to Meta-language that is English.