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Under Construction: Women, Work, and Waithood in Wukro, Ethiopia

By Zoë Johnson

November 2018

This presentation will focus on a preliminary analysis of fieldwork conducted in Wurko, Ethiopia — a small but rapidly urbanising city in northern Ethiopia — from June to August 2018. Through life history interviews with young, female coffee house owners, the research explores the challenges presented by the transitory state of young-womanhood by analysing the impacts of Ethiopia's development on gender relations, deconstructing narratives of empowerment, and exploring the way identity is produced through everyday practices. In recent years, Ethiopia’s rapidly growing economy has garnered it much attention from the global community. Ethiopia could be said to embody the positive development narrative of an “Africa Rising.” However, following the work of Daniel Mains, this paper suggests that “Construction” may be a more apt temporal narrative through which we can think about change in Africa’s second-most populous nation. In particular, the discussion will focus on construction in this small urban context, and how the proliferation of new buildings factors into peoples’ sense of spatiality and their perceptions of (unequal) wealth and access to city services and infrastructure.

 

Zoë Johnson is an MPhil student in Development Studies at Oxford's Department of International Development (ODID). Her research focuses on young female coffee house owners in Wukro Ethiopia. Zoë's work explores the challenges presented by the transitory state of young-womanhood in Ethiopia by analysing the impacts of Ethiopia's development on gender relations, deconstructing narratives of empowerment, and exploring the way identity is produced through everyday practices.

Zoë holds a BSc in Global Resource Systems from the University of British Columbia.