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1 And Then She Said; An exploration of North American Somali Diasporic identity through auto/ethnography, personal narratives, and dance performance By: Megan Amal Rogers A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillm ent of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Heather White, PhD Sarasota, Florida May, 2012
2 And Then She Said; an exploration of Somali Diasporic cultural identity through auto/ethnography, personal narratives, and dance performance. Megan Amal Rogers New College of Florida 2012 Abstract This thesis explores Somali Diasporic cultural identity through the combination of auto/ethnography, life history narratives, and dance performance; that is, the analysis of my own experience, the personal narratives of my family members as expressed to me thro ugh interviews, and the dance performance I created to express the content of the first two components. I use these modes of analysis to enrich the current picture of the North American Somali Diaspora by bringing attention to subjective lived experience. The North American Somali Diaspora refers to Somali peoples living on th e North American continent. I n my initial research on the subject I found that academic articles often focused on the plight and misfortune of the generalized, faceless, Somali refugee. There has been little research done in any field on the individual refugee. I chose to focus on the individual cultural identity of my family and myself by using subjective modes of analysis. With this thesis I hope to present a more varied and active account of the Somali refugee community. Heather White, PhD Humanities
3 Thanks Hooyo!
4 Table of Contents Part One Introduction 5 Auto/Ethnography 12 Personal Narrative 13 Dance Performance 16 Part Two Personal Narrative Introduction 19 Somalia/Somalis 21 Family 25 Personal Identity 29 Dance Performance Introduction 34 Structure 34 Act One 37 Act Two 38 Conclusion 41 Bibliography 43 Performance Photographs 47
5 Part One Introduction The first time I was told to check a box indicating my race was when I was in the fourth grade. It was on the FCAT, my very first standardized test. It was the first time that I was asked about my race in any sort of official way, the first time I was real ly supposed to be truthful about my race. I checked Hispanic. Growing up in the mostly white suburbs of South Florida my race had been brought into question quite a few times. But, up until this point, the only people who ever asked about it were curious (and sometimes cruel) kids my own age (which was 8). When I would be asked to tell them "what I was" I would carefully, but quickly, construct my answer. I would think of what I knew. I knew that I was a Muslim and I knew that I was a Somali and I knew that I was an American. But I also knew that two of those identities were strange, I knew that the other kids didn't understand what those names meant. I didn't know how to explain them. But I did know that there were other people with tan skin like me. So I pretended to be a part of the groups of the other tan people, groups I knew the other kids understood. Sometimes I was Hawaiian, people always thought Hawaii was cool. Other times I was Hispanic, like a lot of the other kids. During an FCAT test in mi ddle school I decided that it was time to stop pretending to be Hispanic and to start checking other'. I chose other', the cop out
6 answer instead of another more direct answer because I guess I still wasn't sure which box I belonged in. It turned out t hat I was glad to check other. At that time and place in my life ( the minimally diverse Polo Park Middle School in Wellington, Florida ) it was pretty darn cool to be different. Kids spent a lot of energy cultivating their uniqueness and their difference. B ut they also made sure to only be unique or different in ways that were generally agreed to be cool. And the kind of different that I was wasn't quite cool in the middle school social sphere. I was still lying about my middle name, changing Amal (Arabic fo r hope) to Amelia. But on my confidential standardized tests I started feeling pretty confident that I belonged in the box with all the others'. Probably starting in middle school, and continuing now, my mom often tells my younger sister and I that we a re "truly African American". This is because, she would say, "your mom is an African and your dad is an American". She always includes the caveat that we are not African American in the way that normally connotes, because we are both African and American. (It has become clear throughout my life, more and less so at times, that I don't fit fully into either one of those groups. I only fit in both.) As I got older I started to become proud of my dual identity. And as myself became clearer I started to become proud of my dual identity. I started telling my friends my middle name. I started laughing about and sharing the story of my first name. (That story goes: when my mom was growing up in Mogadishu, Somalia she was an avid reader and a fan of British adventu re novels. The heroine in her favorite one was named, quite exotically to her, Megan. She decided that she would name her first daughter
7 Megan. Years later she moved to the United States, and in 1990, the year that Megan was the most popular name, gave bir th to me, Megan.) The more I learned the more proud I became, and the more comfortable I grew. I don't remember when, but, as I was busy learning and growing, I decided to start checking mixed' when asked to report my race. And I enjoyed declaring myself as mixed. Sometime in high school a form presented me with the option to check two boxes. What an idea! What a relief! Finally there was an option for me! Finally whatever I was wasn't strange or unexplainable or other. So I checked black' and white'. This experience taught me that there is no check a box explanation of any identity. Identities are an endless constellation of qualities. Knowing this I feel that when looking at something so complex as the culture of the North American Somali Diaspora i t is important to look at as much of the constellation as possible. Cultural identity is found in the small fol ds and sinews of everyday life. T his thesis explores Somali Diasporic culture through the combination of auto/ ethnography, life history narrati ves, and dance performance; that is, the analysis of my own experience, the personal narratives of my family members as expressed to me through interviews, and the dance performance I created to express the content of the first two components. I use thes e modes of analysis to enrich the current picture of the North American Somali Diaspora In my initial research I found that academic articles often focused on the plight and misfortune of the generalized, faceless, Somali refugee. There has been little re search done in any field on the individual refugee. The scholar David Palmer states that refugees are often presented in academic research as just a collective recipient
8 of policy. 1 The existing research on the North American Somali Diaspora does not typic ally represent personal lived experience. For this thesis I chose to use personal narratives of members of the Somali Diaspora By focusing on individual cultural identity I hope to present a more varied and active account of the Somali refugee community. It is important to note that although previous scholarly work does not focus on the lived experience of people, it does provide important knowledge on the Diaspora in the f orm of demographic and historical information, some of which I will now present. T o start, the North American Somali Diaspora refers exclusively to Somali peoples living on the North American continent. Previous inquiries present disparate reports of the Somali population living in the United States of America. The United States Census from 2000 reports that there were 35,760 2 Somali peoples living in America while other groups report up to 85,700 (American Community Surve y). 3 (Although the Refugee Resettlement Watch says even this higher number is far from the truth.) 4 The reports from Canada reflect this disparity. The Canadian Census in 2006 reports 37,785 Somali peoples living in Canada 5 while other groups report up to 200,000. Somalis living in the United States and Canada are mostly concentrated in larger cities, such as Washington D.C. ; Columbus, Ohio; New York City New York; and San Diego, 1 Palmer, David. 2010. "Every morning before you open the door you have to watch for that brown envelope":Complexities and challenges of undertaking oral history with ethiopian forced migrants in london, U.K. Oral History Review 37 (1), 2 Goza, Franklin. 2007. The somali presence in the united states: A socio economic and demographic profile. In From mogadishu to dixon the somali diaspora in a golbal context., eds. Abdi M. Kusow, Stephanie R. Bjork, 255. Trenton, New Jersey: The Red Sea Press 3 Acorcoran. American community survery gets numbers wrong on US somali population. [cited 03/06 2012]. 4 Ancorcoran. American community survery gets numbers wrong on US somali population. 5 Canadian Census. Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for canada, provinces and terr itories 20% sample data [cited 03/06 2012].
9 California, in the United States. 6 In Canada, Somalis are mostly concentrat ed in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver. 7 Most of these members of the Diaspora travelled to North Ameri ca following a dictatorship that culminated in civil war in Somalia. This wave of Somali migrants began in the late 1980s and has since been a c ontinuous exodus of refugees. During this time the Somalis who had previously migrated to the countrys surrounding regions began to migrate to Europe and North America as asylum seekers due to the first Gulf war and the undesirable situation in Somalia. 8 P revious research also provides a historical context for personal narratives Relevant historical context helps illuminate this undesirable situation in Somalia. Mohamed Siad Barre orchestrated a coup during the democratic elections in Somali in March of 19 69. Barre immediately suspended the countries constitution and implemented a system of Scientific Socialism, which scholar Ahmed describe s as a term coined by Friedrich Engels to describe a type of Marxist socialism that holds its theories to an empirical standard and regards observation as essential to development. 9 Under this system, Barre proliferated propaganda that asserted things such as "socialism unites, tribalism divides" and made claims that he was the father of Somalia and that the mother was the revolution. Barre banned the existence of clans, implemented the death penalty 6 Goza, Franklin. 2007. The somali presence in the united states 7 Goza, Franklin. 2007. The somali presence in the united states 8 Sheikh, H. "Somalias Missing Million: The Somali Diaspora and its Role in Development." United Nations Development Program (2009). 9 Ahmed, Ismail. "The Heritage of War and State Collapse in Somalia and Somaliland: Local Level Effects, External Interventi ons, and Reconstruction." Third World Quarterly 20, no. 1 (1999).
10 for homicide, and prohibited any and all private importing, storing, purchasing, and distributing of food items. He put most sectors of the economy wholly under government control 10 The scholar Ahmed explain s that Barre shut down trade ro utes between Somalia, the Arab states, and Ethiopi a just as a major draught hit in 1974. This draught caused a prolonged famine. The rural population of northern Somalia has never fully recovered from the effects of this draught. 11 This fact can stand as an example of the disconnection between the urban south and the rural north. Shortly following this drought was a conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia over the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. The Ogaden War of 1977 and 1978 was considered to be a turning point i n Siad Barres regime. In 1979 there was an estimated 1.3 million internally displaced Somalis, many were living in refugee camps. During this time the quality of life in the many camps was rapidly deteriorating. Lawlessness and violence were prevalent. Bar res government began recruiting many of the internally displaced Somalis into the army. This contributed to the growing loss in the credibility of the army and the police in the eyes of the Somali citizens. The violence escalated. At the height of the civi l war, in 1991 and 1992, another famine struck. Eventually this famine killed between 300,000 and 500,000 Somalis. 12 The country had plunged into chaos. During the civil war and continuing on today many organizations attempt to provide relief to Somalia. Many of these relief attempts have been unsuccessful. The scholar Ahmed hold s that this is due to the frequent failure of these organizations to 10 Ahmed, 2009 11 Ahmed, 2009 12 Ahmed, 2009
11 engage Somali community organizations such as mosques and groups of elders. 13 This same critique can be said of the numerous UN reconciliation conferences. The conferences failed to represent the desires of the majority of Somali peoples. 14 For example, UNISOM has persistently endeavored to rebuild a centralized state; this view has been reflected in numerous organiz ations, but not in the Somali people. 15 To this day, reconstruction of a Somali state has been limited. But there is hope, the northern region of Somaliland has created an independent, functioning, government; with a parliament, a president, a police and court system, as well as municipal gove rnments. 16 Also, the very large, international, Somali Diaspora has long been a major investor in the country. The Diaspora sends an estimated 370 million US dollars to Somalia annually 17 The scholar Sheikh state s "The Diaspora saved the Somali people insi de Somalia and throughout the Greater Horn region from economic collapse and extreme impoverishment." 18 To reiterate although this information is important for contextualizing personal histories it does not give a full enough picture of the lives of this population. Because of this, I found that the most complete way to learn about my culture and my place in the Diaspora and the world is throug h the stories of my family. H earing the way they personally feel about experiences and conditions that we share de epened immensely my 13 Ahmed, 2009 14 Ahmed, 2009 15 Ahmed, 2009 16 Ahmed, 2009 17 Sheikh, 2009 18 Sheikh, 2009
12 perspective and understanding. For this reason, my thesis project is grounded in personal experience. Auto/Ethnography In this thesis I am using auto/ethnography to in terpret my personal experience of my North American Somali Diaspor ic identity. I am defining auto/ ethnography as the scholar Deborah E. Reed Danahay does in her book Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting the Self and Social. She states that auto/ethnography is "a form of self narrative that places itself within a social context" 19 One example of auto/ethnography in this thesis is the s tory about checking boxes to indicate race In that story I am writing a self narrative that places my story and myself in the social context of the North American Somali Diaspora I also u tilize auto/ethnography in the personal narratives section of this thesis and in my creation of the dance performance piece. In the person al narratives section I utilize auto/ethnography by including an analysis of my personal lived experiences along with those of the interview subjects. In the creation of the performance piece I utilize auto/ethnography by including my personal experience and personal narrative in the through line of the dance. To contextualize my self narrative I will now present a brie f background of my place in the North American Somali Diaspora. My mother was born in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Her father, my grandfather, was a judge; my grandmother was a businesswoman. My mother lived a happy and fortunate childhood. She travelled to the 19 Neni Panourgia. "Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting the S elf and the Social by Deborah E. Reed Danahay." American Ethnologist 27, no. 2 (2000): 551 552, 553.
13 United States to attend college and was never able to return home. While she was in school the civil war began. My mother and most of our family became refugees when they weren't able to return home. She still lives in the United States and still hopes to return to Somalia. She has raised two daughters and earned many degrees. I am her first daughter. I was born in Washington DC and soon moved to south Florida, where my sister was born. We were raised in middle class suburbs between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. We were both in advanced classes and played lots of sports. Like our mother, we had a happy and fortunate childhood. Although I have always wanted to be close to my extended family, I have always lived far away from them. This contr ibuted to me feeling disconnected from my family and culture when I was younger. Another contributor to this feeling was that my sister and I never spoke Somali. So, when we did spend time with our extended family, we were always separate. As I expressed earlier, I grew comfortable with and deeply interested in my family and culture as I got older This interest led us here, to this thesis, where I will explore my experience of my culture through auto/ethnography. Personal Narrative Interviews I chose to use personal narratives because they bring attention to subjective experience. Another reason I was drawn to personal narratives to gather my research data wa s because of their liveness, because of their performative nature. Liveness is difficul t
14 to clearly define. The term was coined by the BBC in 1934 20 and is defined as "the quality or state of being live". 21 The way I am thinking of liveness in the context of this project is a bit more complex and indirect than the definition. I will be referri ng more to the feeling of liveness, t he feeling of hearing a story, the feeling of seeing something done. 22 This liveness of personal narrative inspires me because it lives long after the initial events expressed by the subjects end. The stories are kept a live by the numerous bodies that continue to transmit them. By interviewing my family members and creating this performance I am reifying their stories, telling their stories again, in print and on stage, and continuing their liveness. I chose to intervie w four of my family members, three first cousins and my sister. I chose these family members on the basis of their closeness in age (all are aged from 20 35) and on the basis of our personal relationships. Two of the interview subjects are male and two are female. They all live in the United States. The subjects we discussed all had to do with culture and cultural identity. Cultural identity can be defined, loosely, as the influence one s culture has in shaping one's individual identity. 23 Further it can be defined as the feelings of belonging to a culture or the feeling of "oneness" within a group. 24 These two definitions (the feelings of belonging to a culture and the influence that these feelings have over individual identity), 20 Harrison, Jackie. 2006. Broadcast news 1926 1955. In News. 49. New York, New York: Routledge. 21 Merriam Webster Dictionary. Liveness 22 Auslander, Phill ip. 2008. Liveness: Performance in a mediatized culture New York City, New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. 23 Adler, Peter. 2002. Beyond cultural identity: Reflections on multiculturalism 24 Hall, Stuart. Cultural identity and diaspora.
15 used in conjunction, are w hat I will be referring to when discussing Somali Diasporic cultural identity. In gathering these stories I felt it important to allow my interviewee to tell the stories and share the feelings that they want ed to tell and share. I was aware of my role as interviewer and the ways in which I could influence their responses. To limit my influence over their responses I chose to ask very general questions S ometimes I chose to present a topic and allow them to bring up whatever they thought about. Similarl y, I was aware of the Intersubjectivity in the interview process. Both parties in the interview were, as scholar Kenneth Kirby describes it, "subjectively reacting to the subjectivity of others". 25 This is important to be aware of because it reifies both th e individual and the collective. In this project I interviewed my family members. The process was very intimate. The content was very personal but also largely shared by each of the interviewees and the Somali Diaspora at large The emotions expressed are intertwined with the collective experience and memories of the Diaspora at large The stories are adding to the fab ric of the Somali Diasporic identity Because of the close relationships I have with each of my interviewees the content of discussion was, I'm sure, affected. It would be impossible to point to exactly where or how the content was affected but I would posit that the mood of each discussion was affected by our relationship. Each interview was very casual and was often interrupted with light fa miliar chat. I made an effort to keep this in mind when analyzing the interviews and creating the performance. 25 Kirby, Kenneth R. 2008. Phenomenology and the problems of oral history. Oral History Review 35 (1): 22.
16 In my analysis of the interviews the wa y that each individual expressed his or her experiences was as important as the specific content of those experiences This consideration aided the flow of this project from the interviews into the performance. Dance P erformance Personal narratives, culture, and dance have similarities that have allowed me to combine and connect them in the form of this thesis. The scholar Bauman asserts that in oral history (or personal narrative) 26 based performance, the verbal act doesn't pre exist the performance, but the performance flows directly from it. 27 Each stage of this project flowed forwards and backwards into each other. A major consideration in creating this dance piece was my desire to retain the liveness of the stories, the tangible reality of the stories. Scholar and choreographer Jeff Friedman, in his work Muscle Memory, states that oral history (or in the case of this thesis, personal narrative) and dance performance share a same logic because of their quality of liveness. 28 This statement reinforces my feeling that both dance and personal narrative share performative and ephemeral qualities that le nd to them being seamlessly connected, l end to them folding into and over one another. Culture shares similar 26 Oral history and personal narrative disambiguation 27 Richard Bauman. "Verbal Art as Performance." American Anthropologist 77, no. 2 (1977). 28 Fried man, Jeff. 2005. 'Muscle memory': Performing oral history. Oral History 33 (2, Memory Work) (Autumn): pp. 35 47.
17 qualities in its fluidity. Culture is forever changing and indefinable. The fact that culture can be expressed in infinite stories reinforces that Another consideration while I was creating this dance piece comes from the scholar Della Pollock's assertion that oral history exists as a form of liminal truth, because it is "a critical repetition among repetitions" 29 This means that the stories are influenced and changed by what could have been and what could be, by what should have been and what should be, by what was and what is. The facts of the story are not what is crucial, but what is told and not told and the context of those tellings is. In this thesis I apply the concept of liminal truth to dance as well, by engaging with dance as a "critical repetition among repetitions" 30 T he stories and feelings expressed in the dances I created are influenced by what was and what is, w hat should have been and what should be. The dance piece will only exist in the time it is being performed and passed on to the audience. In this line of thought I also apply to dance Pollock's statement that personal narratives are "a form of cultural cur rency that flows among participants" 31 The dance piece I created is a form of cultural currency that flowed from the interview subjects experience and emotion through my analyses and into movement. I am passing on this "cultural currency" 32 to the audienc e. Then it will be theirs to subjectively express to others. 29 Pollock, Della. 1990. Telling the told: Performing "like a family". The Oral History Review 18 30 Pollock, Della, Telling the told: Performing "like a family". 31 Pollock, Della, Telling the told: Performing "like a family". 32 Pollock, Della, Telling the told: Performing "like a family".
18 A final concept of Pollock's that I applied to this project is her idea of "history working itself out in narrative interaction, on, through, and by interview participants". 33 This is another exam ple of the flowing and folding of the subjectivity that is central to this thesis. Through th is project I am working out my family's past and present, my past and present, "on, through, and by interview participants". I am also working out these pasts and presents on, through and by dance. The scholar Dwight Conquergood says it well. He says that personal narratives are "imaginative summonings and interpretive replays of past events in light of the present situations and struggles". 34 I very much feel that this applies directly to dance. Personally, when I dance I am very much interpreting my past experiences, feelings, and thoughts through movement in the context of the present. When I dance I can work through my past "on, through, and by" movement. In th is thesis project I am using movement as the vehicle for interacting with my interview subjects (my family members ) expe riences, emotions, and thoughts, with my own experience, emotions, and thoughts. The following sections of this thesis will include the analysis of the interviews I conducted, the discussion of the dance performance I created, and the conclusion to it all. 33 Pollock, Della, Telling the told: Performing "like a family". 34 Conquergood, Dwight. 19 93. Storied worlds and the work of teaching. Communication Eduction 42 (4).
19 Part Two Personal Narratives Introduction To begin this section, I'd like to explore the term Diaspora. According to the scholar Brent Hayes Edwards "the term Diaspora, so attractive to many of our analyses, does not appear in the literature under consideration until surprisingly late after the Second World War." 35 Edwards goes on to assert that growing usage of the term Diaspora comes directly from academic interests in Pan Africanism. 36 And, although this was the origins of the modern uses of Diaspora Edwards makes clear that "the accepted risk is that the term's analytic focus "uctuates." Like Pan African, it is open t o ideological appropriation in a wide variety of political projects". 37 An example of this fluctuation is shown in Edwards' discussion of dcalage'. Dcalage is a French term that can be translated to roughly a gap in time or space. For this thesis I find Edwards characterization of dcalage rather apt. He states that 35 Edwards, Brent H. "The Uses of Diaspora." accessed 05/05, 2012, http://www.fivecolleges.edu/sites/cisa/documents/Edwards%202001%20 %20The%20Uses%20of%20Diaspora%20(Social%20Text).pdf 36 W.E.B. Dubois is quoted by Edwards as expressing that "Pan Africa means intellectual understanding and co operation among all groups of Negro descent in order to bring about at the earliest possible time the industrial and spiritual emancipation of the Ne gro peoples." 37 Edwards
20 "dcalage is the kernel of precisely that which cannot be transferred or exchanged, the received biases that refuse to pass over when one crosses the water. It is a changing core of difference ; it is the work of "differences within unity" an unidentiable point that is incessantly touched and ngered and pressed." 38 Within this thesis I am approaching Diaspora from this lens of difference within unity. And through that lens I chose to organize the information about the Diaspora communicated to be through personal narrative interviews and from my own auto/ethnography into three themes The three themes are Somalia/Somalis, family, and personal identity. To generate these themes I utilized Robin Cohen's characterization of Diaspora, as presented by Peggy Levitt. 39 Cohen breaks Diaspora into five qualities or characteristics. These five qualities are; (1) voluntary or forced migration from a homeland to two or more regions, (2) a collective memory of or imagined relation to an idealized homeland, (3) a commitment to reclaim or maintain strong ties to that homeland, (4) a range of incorporation experiences in the host society (from marginality to advancement) and (5) a sense of connection to co ethni cs in other places of settlement. The three themes that emerged from the interviews and my analysis are reflexive of Cohen's qualities of Diaspora The first theme is the discussion of Somalia and Somali people. A great many emotions and concepts poured f rom that discussion. The most salient ones being the pain and struggle that came with loss of homeland, migration, and 38 Edwards 39 Levitt, Peggy. "Between God, Ethnicity, and Country: An Approach to the Study of Transnational Religion." Princeton University,
21 adjusting to life in the Diaspora and the hope for and pride in the people and culture. This theme incorporates Cohen's first three quali ties of Diaspora The second theme is the emotions and concepts regarding family. The most salient ones in this theme are the cultural aspects of family such as religion, stories, food, and music and the strength, grounding, and pride provided by family. This theme incorporates Cohen's third, fourth, and fifth qualities of I The final theme is personal identity. The information about this theme was gathered exclusively from the oral history interviews I conducted. Although the information for this theme is only from the interviews it actually incorporates all five of Cohen's q ualities of I This theme refers to the personal relationships with the first two themes and to the personal journey of self. In this personal narratives section I will present and discuss my thoughts and feelings about these themes as drawn from the inte rviews I conducted and in conjunction with the information I've gathered from interviews and research and with Cohen's qualities of Diaspora. Somalia/Somalis There is no way to put the emotions of the refugee experience into words. There is no way to explain the pain and sense of loss that comes with being forced to leave your home. There is no way to make sense of the confusion and frustration of building a whole new life in a whole new world. I deeply feel that the only seemly way to do so is through the words of the people and families who have had these experiences.
22 Although those I interviewed did not have first hand experience of forced migration the effects of that experience were present throughout their life. Each person I've interviewed has at least one parent who fled Somalia and sought refuge in North America, myself included. This section will share my feelings and thoughts about Somalia and its people as well as those spoken by the family members I've interviewed. I will also include some d iscussion of secondary sources on the subject to provide context. When dealing with the subject of the forced migration and resettlement of Somalis the thoughts that came up first in the interviews and scholarly reports were of the struggle and pain. D espite my feelings that the resilience and hope are perhaps the most defining characteristics of the Diaspora I do believe it is important to keep in mind the context of the incredible sorrow and desolation from which this hope rose. The Somali people were faced with state collapse. There were few options. The wave of migration that my family came in was that of people of means, educated urbanites, they were, as if with spectacular luck, able to leave early enough to not witness much o f the storm. Some Somalis, like my mother, had left Somalia during peacetime for school. But despite this luck they were never able to return home. They were stranded. Unsure of the location of some of their loved ones. Forced to rip up and then put down r oots in a world that was not their own. These experiences undoubtedly cause inconceivable pain. This gravity was passed on to children, to the generation that is the focus of this project. The deep and long lasting effects of the refugee experience were particularly
23 poignant to one of my interviewees, my cousin Amina 40 Amina's mother left Somalia before the war (like much of our family), to Europe, and, like many others, was unable to return home. Amina states that There is no real home for us in Somalia My mom couldn't go home so she chose to forget about the whole thing. She remembers how they had to leave, how they couldn't go back; it was a pretty traumatic experience. Maybe it would have been different, if there were a home to go back to. Maybe she wouldn't have pushed it all away. I think she did it to save herself some pain. Amina in this passage is expressing her understanding of her mother's experience of the first of Cohen's qualities of I the forced migration. As I stated and as she demonst rated through the way that she expressed this passage Amina is deeply affected and has been deeply affected by the trials her mother faced. When she spoke this passage to me, and each time she spoke of her mothers struggle, she had pain and a distinct disc ontentedness in her voice. There are innumerable reactions to the innumerable journeys a refugee may endure. Each reaction and journey vastly personal and still deeply wound with the Diaspora at large. The expression of both Amina's mother's displacemen t and her own feelings of lack of home greatly resonated with other individual accounts. Such as with another cousin I interviewed, Abdi 41 He communicated that he is overwhelmed by the current situation in Somalia and the circumstances that led to it. He f eels that his generation, this generation, doesn't have the same connection to the homeland as our parents but he does long for it. I profoundly relate to that sentiment. I desire to follow 40 Name changed for privacy 41 Name changed for privacy
24 my roots to our homeland but I also feel disconnected from it, lik e maybe my roots don't make it all the way home. This longing for an idealized homeland and distress over the state Somalia is currently in was clear in each of the interviews I conducted. Each individual communicated their growing desire to learn about and engage with their cultural heritage. They also each communicated a desire and an earnest hope to go to Somalia when it is safe and be a part of it's rebuilding. Amina expressed these desires (as well as the pain of loss that was discussed previously) i n this statement; I hope I can go to Somalia. I want to have a place there, but I need to learn the language. I do hope that one day I can go teach. To bring the arts. I have hope that we can rebuild one day. How awesome would that be? I look at old pictur es of Mogadishu. It's beautiful! And I think of my mom, she left before the war, and had no idea she couldn't go back. It is so frequently apparent how heavily the weight of the past weighs on the children of refugees. Amina continues; I hope we can go ba ck home. I know my mom doesn't want to, but I believe that deep down she does. I think its just because she is so sad. She doesn't connect to the family or the people or our culture because she is so sad. But I really wish that we could have a family reuni on in Somalia. That's what I really want. The pain and the hope are so tightly coiled. It's a great heaving sigh of a feeling. In the interviews I conducted each time the hope for returning to Somalia was expressed so was the reluctant acceptance of the terrible reality the country is facing today. Another statement from Amina reinforces this; Our parents can't go back to Somalia, but not even to the area. It would be better if they could at least go to Ethiopia. But the whole region, all of our people, w e cant go back. I think it's really weird for us, because there is no Somalia. Our childhood would have been so different if every summer we went to Somalia. We should teach dance there one day, open a school. And our family was so political
25 in Somalia, so high up, so I feel like we could really do a lot, if we went there and had the language. I felt that through her vocalization of this feeling she demonstrated Cohen's idea of the connection to an idealized homeland. Despite the knowledge of her own disc onnection to Somalia and of the reality of the present situation of the country she still idealizes the prospect of returning. Each of those I interviewed expressed a similar emotion of glorifying the past and the homeland. I feel this same way. I feel such an ache to be home. But I cannot go there and if I were able to I would be very much an outsider. This feeling of potentially being unwelcome (as Amina hinted at with her statements about needing the language before she could go to S omalia) is yet another source of intense discomfort for these children of refugees. With this intense discomfort comes a deep pride and sense of obligation to remain connected to the group at large. This is reflected in the following section about family. Family My aunt, Kadhija 42 once told me a story 43 that has long stuck with me. The story is of when her son was first born and I feel that it substantiates this discussion of family. When Kadhija's son was born she cried for days. She was realizing all of the things that her son would miss out on because she had 42 Name changed for privacy 43 This story was told to me in a private conversation amongst family. My aunt gave me express permission to use her story in my academic work.
26 to be a refugee. He wou ld never get to see where his mother grew up or went to school or her favorite beaches, he would never see her home, his home, and that broke her heart. The way my family grew up in Somali, it was required by custom for a woman to rest for forty days aft er giving birth while her family took care of the new baby. The day after Kadhija gave birth to her son in Canada she had to go to work. She was more than shocked at how much having a child in Somalia is not at all like having a child in North America. My family often speaks of how childcare is never a worry in Somalia. There is an entire community who would treat your child like their own. In Canada Kadhija was near to alone. She often had to stress about who would take care of her son when she had to work Kadhija expressed to me how she feels that the phrase it takes a village' is rather well founded. She expressed that raising a successful child is difficult in a culture where a stimulating community is tremendously rare. The mothers of my interviewee s, Kadhija's sisters, had similar experiences and feelings. Amina expressed to me how her mothers experience as a refugee created a feeling of displacement for herself. She states, My mom was really affected by the war; she went into a big depression. She never grabbed on to this American identity. My mom was always very associated to our culture. Growing up, I always knew, I'm Somali. But she doesn't talk to the family; she doesn't call your mom. I feel displaced because of that. In Somalia, community an d family is of paramount importance. This importance is reflected in myself and in my cousins that I interviewed for this project. The experiences of the older generation, of our parents, are strongly present in their children. A few years ago a friend of my family talked about the difference in being Somali and becoming Somali. He said the older generation is being Somali; their culture is
27 unique and engrained in their identity. He said that the younger generation is becoming Somali; their culture is a balancing act of the parent culture and their own, in this case, North American, culture. I feel that it is difficult for this younger generation to understand Somali culture fully partly because of how much they are rooted in North American culture and thought. Throughout my life and during my interviews for this project it was clear how much this second generation wants to engage with and understand Somali culture. This desire is evident in the way those I interviewed discussed the Somali language. My cousin Abdi stated that his parents always made an effort to speak it [Somali] in the home I grew up around tons of Somalis. My cousins, aunts, and uncles were frequently speaking in Somali around me. But everyone can tell my Somali is not native." Despite his knowledge of the language he still desires to understand it on a deeper level, to be able to connect with another part of our heritage. He continues, "idioms and poetics often go over my head, I definitely wouldn't try to write a novel in Somali. I do feel shame when people are conversing in a high level; the poetics and songs are like an other language to me." All of those I interviewed also experienced a similar shame. My cousin Omar 44 stated that "If I go to a Somali gathering, there is sometimes a little bit of shame in my language skills. Not like I'm going to hang my head low, but its some shame." My sister stated, "I don't feel any less Somali, but I guess it [not speaking Somali] does affect my relationships with some of the family. At family gatherings we are always sequestered in a corner." And lastly, Amina stated, "I'm embarrassed about not speaking Somali. I feel like people are looking at me, like why don't you know your past? Why aren't you part of this? A part of us?" 44 Name changed for privacy
28 Amina expressed to me an analogous feeling when she said, "I do want to learn Somali. I do want to learn for m y moms' sake. I want to know my mothers language. I'm her only child, its like I have a responsibility." I can truly relate to this sentiment. My mother has told me time and again that me learning Somali would be the best gift I could give her, and I so wa nt to give her that. When talking about speaking Somali my cousin Omar stated that he thinks, "it does affect identity", and I agree. Being able to communicate in the language of our homeland means being able to engage and relate to the culture in a speci al way. The ways in which one engages with and relates to their culture is largely what makes up cultural identity. Each of those I interviewed expressed this desire to engage with and relate to our culture in a deeper way through language and other avenue s for learning about culture. I feel that this is reflective of Cohen's third quality of I which is a commitment to reclaim or maintain strong ties to the homeland. 45 Through broadening and deepening (to repeat the phrase again) the ways they engage with a nd relate to their culture the cousins I interviewed are demonstrating this commitment to maintain ties to their homeland. These ties are built and maintained through and by family. Although there is this desire to maintain ties to the homeland there is also a rootedness in North America and its culture. The cultural identity of those I interviewed is a balance between Somali culture that is transmitted through family and North American culture, which is what they are immersed in almost constantly. This b alance, in my own experience, has weaved Somali culture even tighter with my relationship to family. The majority of my "cultural reference points", as my cousin Omar calls them, 45 Levitt, Peggy. Between god, ethnicity, and country: An approach to the study of tran snational religion. Paper presented at Workshop on "Transnational Migration: Comparative Perspectives", Princeton University.
29 are American. Because of this, the aspects of my cultural identity that are s pecifically Somali are so emotionally and directly connected to my familial relationships. There are a multitude of wonderful reasons for wanting to become closer with ones extended family. In the experience of those I interviewed and in my own experien ce, one of those many reasons is to connect more deeply with our culture. Each of those I interviewed expressed a desire to interact more and strengthen relationships with our extended family. My sister, for example, stated, "I do want to get to know other family. It is hard. But as I get older I want to more." My cousin Omar said, "I wish I could get closer and talk more to family." Finally my cousin Abdi states "I spend a lot of time with family, but still not enough. I have gotten better at connecting wi th family, but I could still do more." I will close this section with a brief quote from my cousin Abdi, "I experience Somali though our family". The family is the center of our culture; culture is crucial to our family. I hope that all of those I intervi ewed, myself included, are able to engage with and relate to our culture as deeply as they desire. Personal Identity In this final of the three themes I will be discussing the relationship between those I interviewed and the emotions and concepts of the first two themes. I am referring to their feelings about their identity as individuals. This theme incorporate all five of Cohen's qualities of I which are, to refresh, (1) voluntary or forced migration from a homeland to two or more regions, (2) a collective memory of or
30 imagined relation to an idealized homeland, (3) a commitment to reclaim or maintain strong ties to th at homeland, (4) a range of incorporation experiences in the host society (from marginality to advancement) and (5) a sense of connection to co ethnics in other places of settlement. Each of these qualities is present in the shared experiences and memorie s of those I interviewed. Therefore, each one of these qualities contributes to their cultural identity. I want to begin this section with a discussion of the difficulty of growing up with the uncommon background of Somali American. In the earlier section "Box Story" I discussed my personal struggle with this experience. My cousin Amina discusses her experience in the following quote: Yes. I struggled. Hardcore. From both sides. I struggled, because my dads African American, and yet African Americans hated me. I struggled because I lived in suburban Virginia, and I did ballet, which largely is a suburban middle class white thing. It was weird. People would say, oh she's not black, because I'm not black black'. It's different because kids are so one note, t hey're just trying to be one shade of something. I remember going up to New York when I was twelve, to the Dance Theater of Harlem. It was my first time dancing ballet with African Americans. I was so excited. I felt like I was being part of my American cu ltural identity. They treated my like I was not African American. They would tell me your nose is like this and your voice is like this. And Somali people would tease me saying you're not Somali, you don't speak Somali, you look different. I don't have eit her of their hair. This expression sheds light on a part of Amina's particular experience within the, as Cohen states is the fourth quality of I range of incorporation experiences in the host society. Of the cousins I interviewed Amina expressed feelin gs and experiences most similar to mine. I strongly relate to her feelings of not belonging as she was growing up. When you grow up immersed in American culture and only exposed to your other culture in the home and infrequently (compared to the frequency of the host culture) it is hard to understand your heritage. Each of those I interviewed expressed a transformation that came with age. While they struggled with their
31 cultural identity, their religious identity, and their personal identity when they were young, as they got older they each developed a deeper understanding of, connection with, and pride in their backgrounds and selves. Another quote from Amina reflects both sides of this transformation. I'm very proud, but I feel like I'm sometimes putting too much of myself into being the Somali girl. I am like the only Somali girl in the ballet world; I'm the only Somali American professional dancer. In the schools, in this level, I've seen most everyone, and I'm the only one. My success, it's a part of my moms' American dream. She never made me feel like I was obligated to fulfill it, but I've made it my own obligation. Because of their Islamic influences Somali people are very strong intellectuals. Then there is me, who just want to dance, and the older p eople are asking me how is that going to benefit everyone?' And I tell them I just want to dance. It shouldn't be our responsibility to meet their agenda, of course, but I do want to be the Somali dancer, or Somali actor. I do want to make our people prou d. These emotions register with the third and fifth qualities of Diaspora The third being the commitment to reclaim or maintain strong ties to that homeland, and the fifth being the sense of connection to co ethnics in other places of settlement. Amina wants to make a name for herself as a Somali in part to feel closer to her culture and people. She also feels a sense of connection and obligation to the Diaspora at large. Another important aspect of culture and identity is religion. The Muslim religion is a central aspect to Somali culture in the homeland and in the Diaspora Each of those I interviewed, myself included, was raised as a Muslim. Belonging to a minority relig ion comes with difficulties. My cousin Abdi told me about his experience, thus far, with Islam in this following excerpt from his interview: Growing up in American culture my life was not very religiously oriented. As I grew up I had an uneasy relationship with religion. When I was a teenager, I was pretty much an atheist. Even into my 20s. It was classic teenage angst. As I grew older I became more interested in peoples religious and spiritual beliefs, not necessarily practicing but just learning. At that point, I was content to live my whole life without religion, but I've had a sort of religious epiphany. I started asking myself what is life about? What is all
32 this? Why are we here? And I found that there are no answers, but it's important to think about. So, I grappled with those sorts of questions a long time and moved from atheism to agnosticism. I mean, no one knows why to commit to one or another. So I chose to learn about all religions from a nonjudgmental point of view, with no interest in becoming religious myself. And I somehow made my way back to Islam, and I learned about it sort of for the first time in an intellectual way. And I questioned it too. Why is it so harsh for women? Why this and why that? What's cultural? What's religious? I really h ave to consider it an act of god that I decided that Islam made a lot of sense to me. I do consider myself a Muslim. I mean, I'm not great about praying on time, or praying every single day, and I'm not that good at the other practices that are a part of i t. But I'm making a pretty big effort. The more I talk about it now the more I feel like, oh, I should do this. I have been good at staying away from the bad stuff, but the good stuff is less easy. This excerpt shows Abdi deepening his connection to his heritage while developing his religious beliefs. Although each of those I've interviewed had widely varying religious beliefs and practices they each had a similar experience through growing up with Islam. These similar experiences reinforce Cohen's idea o f the connection with co ethnics (although we are all family, we have always lived far apart). 46 So much of the cultural identity of these Somali Americans comes from family. Culture is transmitted, in a big way, through family. In many points in each of the interviews the interviewees expressed how they wanted to engage more with culture to engage more with family. In this following quote Amina expresses how her desire to succeed as a Somali American is directly related to her mother. I think because my difficult connection to my cultural identity I have a very strong need to have a defined personal identity, I think that's 46 To give Abdi's statement about his religious experience some context I wanted to include this following quote from his interview as well. "My cultural reference points are from here. My outlook is much more North American. I've had somewhat of a global experience, but mostly North American. As a person, I am more global in outlook as opposed to having the perspective of just one co untry. But, culturally, I am very much North American."
33 why I'm in the arts. I've always really wanted to do something for my mom. Also, as I get older, it's becoming more important to me to make a name for myself as a Somali girl. I'm very proud. Like when I see Somali people doing great things, I'm really rooting for them, even when they aren't our family. Like the Mataano girls. 47 I want to do something to make our family, and our people proud. The desire to connect with their cultural background and heritage, as each of those I interviewed expressed, is deeply connected to family. Family is the direct line to, and almost the reason for, culture. Although I am sure there are innumerable personal benefits to engaging with and feeling a part of ones culture (such as a more complete sense of self, because as they say "if know your history") I feel, personally and gathered from the interviews, that the motivation to be a part of our culture comes, to a great extent, from family. Another quote from the well spoken Amina expresses this well; "I pride myself in being Somali, even if my cultural identity is all over the place. I'm Somali. And that's that. I may not know much about what that mean s, yet, they're may not be a place to go home to, but I'm Somali. It's where my mother was born. I'm Somali." Including the statement "it's where my mother was born" indicates how much family is part of culture. By saying that, she implies that because her mother was born in Somalia it is her origin, her homeland. She, and all I interviewed, felt an unending connection to Somalia and Somalis, through their family and as their (greatly) extended family. The final thought I want to leave this section with comes from a short quote from my cousin Omar; "identity is fluid". I fully agree and feel that statement can put this entire project into its proper context. Identity is fluid. There is no way to pin down and point directly to what it is that makes up ones cultural, or any other kind of, identity. I 47 Mataano is a fashion line created by Somali twins, Ayaan and Idyl.
34 believe these interviews reflect this fluidity in their expression of the many ways that each individual interacted with and felt about different aspects of their culture. It is not static. They have felt differ ently over time and their feelings about and relationship with culture will continue to evolve. Part Three Dance Performance Introduction Each aspect of the dance performance piece that I created is drawn from either personal experience or from the experience of my family. As with each part of this thesis I wanted to focus on the subjective experience of culture. T his focus on subjective exp erience is reflected in the through line (or plot line) of the performance as well as in my choreographic and music choices. As I stated in the introduction to this thesis I chose to engage with both the personal narratives and the dance performance piece as a "critical repetition among repetitions" 48 By engaging with the dance piece in this way I was able to also think of it as a piece of "cultural currency" that came from personal, subjective experience that is passed on to the audience to subjectively i nterpret and pass on themselves. Another important aspect of the creation of this dance piece was my desire to retain the liveness of the personal narratives. By performing live the stories will continue on as one point in the line of critical repetitions. 48 Pollock, Della, Telling the told: Performing "like a family".
35 Since completing this dance performance I feel vindicated in my belief that dance is a beautiful and effective means of expressing culture. I feel successful in communicating the emotions expressed to me through interviews and in communicating emotions t hat I have long felt. Structure The structure of the dance performance is, like the personal narratives sections of this thesis, informed by Robin Cohen's five qualities of Diaspora as described by Peggy Levitt. 49 The first act deals with Cohen's first t hree qualities of Diaspora. When combined and contextualized, I describe these three qualities as the interview subjects experience and emotions regarding Somalia and Somalis. The through line of the first act is meant to be representative of the early par t of the refugee experience as well as my personal experience of struggling with my identity when I was younger The second act deals with the third, fourth, and fifth of Cohen's qualities of Diaspora. When combined and contextualized, I describe these thr ee qualities as the interview subjects experience and emotions regarding family. The through line of the second act is the experience of integration, acceptance, and happiness of the refugee (the parents of the interview subjects) and my personal experienc e of finding great pride in my heritage and identity. 49 To reiterate, These five qualities are; (1) voluntary or forced migration from a homeland to two or more regions, (2) a collective memory of or imagined relation to an idealized homeland, (3) a commitment to reclaim or maintain strong ties to that homelan d, (4) a range of incorporation experiences in the host society (from marginality to advancement) and (5) a sense of connection to co ethnics in other places of settlement.
36 To repeat, act one deals with the experience of becoming and being a refugee while also dealing with the experience of being the children of refugees. This act builds to focus on the process of integra tion and acceptance. I want to acknowledge the disparit y between these two experiences. A lthough there is social and personal struggle involved in being "different" or out of place in regards to ones identity it is in no way comparable to the social and pe rsonal struggle involved in being forced from your homeland and to settle in a new land. I was aware of this disparity throughout the creation of the dance performance. I chose to include the refugee experience as a through line because of how deeply my in terview subjects are affected by the experience of their parents. The refugee experience is massively a part of each member of the Diaspora even if they were never forced from their homes. Act One Act one opens with one dancer sitting at desk with a l aptop and listening to a news clip 50 The news clip tells of an event where American armed forces stormed the beaches of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. The news clip serves to contextualize the first piece as well as the entire performance. The content of the clip forces the audience to reflect upon the drastic and violent situation in Somalia. I intended for this feeling, of this reflection, to continue throughout the performance and after it's done. The news clip is 50 Photograph on page 46
37 followed by the first d ance piece, which is titled "Heavy". 51 Heavy aims to convey the pain and struggle of the refugee experience and of the experience of grappling with identity. It also aims to convey the strength and perseverance that are crucial part s of those experiences. A brief solo titled "Rain" follows the first dance. 52 Rain aims to express the frantic frustration of both of these experiences. Rain begins with the dancer running her hand along the side of her body and revealing her torso, she then grabs her torso as if to cover up shame or a wound, she is shocked by it. This then propels her into this frantic motion. The dancer is looking behind her, trying to find something lost, while constantly in motion trying to get somewhere but never going. The dancer repeats a mo vement where she throws her leg and arm violently to one side, as if she is pushing away and brushing off. Th is aims to be representative of the realization that a refugees homeland is no longer home, that the child of a refugee is never really home. This sends the dancer into a frenzied search that ends in a freeze of the possibility of acceptance. Rain is followed by a blackout and an eruption of voices. The voices are representative of the swirling and overwhelming feelings of not being able to understa nd. For the refugee, not being able to understand how it got this way, how they are supposed to go on. For their children, not being able to understand their identity and, for some, not being able to understand their family's language. Half of those I inte rviewed, and in my own personal experience, it can be overwhelming and shaming to not know the language of your people. It makes me, and some of my interview subjects, feel distanced from our 51 Photograph on page 47 52 Photograph on page 48
38 family, our people. This cacophony of voices is meant to create that feeling of oppressive confusion. The voices are followed by a brief transition and then the final dance piece of act one which is titled "Lei Lei". 53 Lei Lei is a traditional Somali dance with brief interruptions of modern dance. The style and struct ure of this dance is inspired by the dance of the Marehaan tribe, which is my family's tribe. The dance is mostly group movement but includes some partnering and solo work. Lei Lei aims to be representative of the experience of growing acceptance of their new home and situation by refugees and the experience of growing acceptance and understanding of their identity by the interview subjects. The choreography reflects these experiences through linear and geometric floor patterns represent finding ones place in a group and working together with a group. There are points of tension and aggression in the choreography, both the interruptions of modern dance and the moments of partnering. The modern dance solos represent the individual experience and the need for control. 54 The partnering moments represent the struggle within a group and the aggression one may feel when working with a group in a difficult situation. The choreography was nearly a structured improvisation. I would tell dancers to move into lines, or i nto a square pattern, but the way they got there was up to them. I chose to use this style of choreography to keep the focus on the individual and their subjective experience of movement. I also chose to include the traditional Somali dance titled, niiko. Niiko is a form of gyrations in the buttocks 55 I included this to 53 Photo graph on page 50 54 Photograph on page 50 55 Photograph on page 51 and page 52
39 represent my interest in engaging with the traditional aspects of my culture. This feeling was shared by each of my interview subjects. Act Two Act two opens with a dance piece titled "Ou r House" 56 This piece aims to be representative of the experience of the parents of the interview subjects of coming to feel their forced homeland is becoming home because of their family. "Our House" is also representative of my personal feelings regardin g my family. I aimed to imbue this piece with the feelings of joy, comfort, and lightness in relation to being home with family. The movement is simple and draws greatly from the lyrical content of the song. The dancers create the image of house with their bodies when the song sings, "our house is a very, very, very fine house 57 ". The dancers work together and even support each other's weight at some points. This is meant to represent the support family can offer. The second piece of act two is titled Love is the Key 58 This pieces aims to be representative of the joy and sanctuary that religion can provide to both the parents of the interview subjects and the interview subjects themselves. The emotions behind the dance come from the experiences shared with m e by my interview subjects, as well as my own personal experience with religion. The movements in the dance are meant to be reflective of a choir singing in a religious setting and the dancers that emerge from the choir are 56 Photograph on page 53 57 Graham Nash. Our House. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. 1969 58 Photograph on page 54
40 meant to punctuate the lyrical c ontent. The dancers in the choir are physically close together and a moving in unison, this is meant to represent my feelings of how religion brings people together. This is also meant to represent my feelings of how families must work together, and how my family works together. When dancers emerge in small groups the chorus supports them with claps and shouts 59 this again represents the support religion can offer. In Love is the Key there are moments of weight sharing and flight that are meant to represe nt my interview subject's faith. These movements are also meant to represent my faith and trust in my family as well as my interview subjects, my family members, faith and trust in our family. The reason I chose to include family in this dance piece focused on religion is because of my experience, as well as the experience of my interview subjects, that religion is very closely tied with family. Religion is largely transmitted through family, and, in my family, religion is fairly central to family tradition and behavior. Following Love is the Key my mother, Fartun Mohamud, takes the stage. She reads a poem in Somali, by her aunt, my great aunt, Hawa Gibril, the former poet laureate of Somalia 60 Dancers will hold signs that display the translation. During this time a short video will play of images of Somalia and Somalis. I chose to include this section partially, for personal reasons because it is such a great triumph and joy for me to have her involved, right by my side. I wanted to include my extended family in this thesis in an emoti onal way by using this poem Another motivation for including this section is as an 59 Photograph on page 55 60 Photograph on page 56
41 example of Somali culture. This section, like the subjective approach of this whole thesis, is meant to give an example of the lived experience of a member of the Somali Di aspora. The poem provides that example, and my mother provides it as well. The final dance piece is titled "Soobax" 61 and is danced to a song of the same name by artist K'naan 62 His lyrics plead, in Somali, that we need all gunman out of Somalia, that we n eed to stop the violence. I chose to end with this piece to put the performance back into perspective. I also chose to choreograph mostly in unison for this piece to represent how we all must work together in order to improve the situation for Somalia and Somalis. During this piece, the dancers bow and exit the stage As the first audience member gets up to leave the theater the song "Her Majesty 63 by the Beatles begins. Dancers return to the stage for a brief number. This piece is included as a nod to my father Jeff Rogers He raised my sister and I with a heavy regiment of Beatles music and this song is particularly close to my heart. This song closes the album Abbey Road, it follows a song titled "The End" which many view as a sort of good bye from the Beatles. As the listener is beginning to reflect on the album and the band a cymbal crashes and "Her Majesty" begins. Ending their final album with a short, light hearted extra track has always served as a personal reminder to keep things light, to always laugh. I included "Her Majesty" for that reason. After all my work at New College, on this thesis, and this dance performance I wanted to end with something gentle and cheerful. 61 Photograph on page 57 62 K'naan. Soobax. K'naan. 2005. 63 Paul McCartney. Her Majesty. The Beatles. 1969.
42 Conclusion In my research I found that p revious scholarly work on the S omali Diaspora, although important, does not give a picture of actual lived experience. With this thesis I wanted to add precisely that to the current picture of the Somali Diaspora I wanted to communicate actual lived experience of individual members of the Somali Diaspora. I wanted to explore and express some of the lived experience of myself and of few of my family members. To accomplish this I utiliz ed auto/ethnography, personal narratives, and dance performan ce to explore and express the subjective reality of Somali Diasporic identity. These methods allowed me to focus on these subjective aspects of Diasporic identity by allowing me to focus on the individual and emotions. Auto/ethnography gave me a channel to incorporate my personal experience and emotions into this written thesis as well as into the dance performance. Personal narratives gave me the opportunity to hear and then express the stories of my family members the way they want them to be told Dance performance flowed directly from both of those streams. I was able to combine and tease apart these pictures of Diasporic identity (my own and my interview subjects) through movement. Creating a dance performance provided me the channel to delve deeply int o the emotions of the personal narratives. I was able to think of them as they
43 were, outside the context of academic analysis. In the creation of movement I was able to express the feelings my family members expressed to me. These modes of analysis gave m e the opportunity to explore my culture and my personal identity while learning about my family's culture and individual personal identities. Through this exploration I learned that it is a beautiful thing that my Somali Diasporic identity does not fit cle anly into a check one box explanation. Somali Diasporic identity (and any identity for that matter) is a constellation of so many factors, so many experiences and traditions. Each of my interview subjects and every member of the Diaspora have a different p erspective and different experience of our shared culture and memories. Each of our perspectives and experiences are small fibers in the ever changing, and ever growing fabric of Somali culture.
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45 Edwards, Brent H. "The Uses of Diaspora." accessed 0 5/05, 2012, http://www.fivecolleges.edu/sites/cisa/documents/Edwards%202001%20 %20The%20Uses%20of%20Diaspora%20(Social%20Text).pdf Friedman, Jeff. "Fractious Action: Oral History Based Performance." In Thinking about Oral History: Theories and Applications 223: R owman Atalmira, 2007. http://books.google.com/books?id=o54I_hmmukQC&dq=jeff+friedman+dance,+OR +oral+OR +history+jeff+friedman&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s "Review: [Untitled]." Oral History Review 28, no. 1 (2001): 127. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3675717?seq=2 Friedman, Jeff. "' Muscle Memory': Performing Oral History." Oral History 33, no. 2, Memory Work (Autumn, 2005): pp. 35 47. Goza, Franklin. "The Somali Presence in the United States: A Socio Economic and Demographic Profile." In From Mogadishu to Dixon the Somali Diaspora i n a Golbal Context edited by Kusow, Abdi M. and Stephanie R. Bjork, 255. Trenton, New Jersey: The Red Sea Press, 2007. Hall, Stuart. "Cultural Identity and Diaspora." accessed 03/06, 2012, http://www.unipa.it/~michele.cometa/hall_cultural_identity.pdf Harrison, Jackie. "Broadcast News 1926 1955." In News 49. New York, New York: Routledge, 2006. Kirby, Kenneth R. "Phenomenology and the Problems of Oral History. Oral History Review 35, no. 1 (2008): 22. K'naan. Soobax. K'naan. 2005. Levitt, Peggy. "Between God, Ethnicity, and Country: An Approach to the Study of Transnational Religion." Princeton University, McCartney, Paul. Her Majesty. The Beatles. 1969. Merriam Webster Dictionary. "Liveness." Nash, Graham. Our House. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. 1969. Palmer, David. ""Every Morning before You Open the Door You have to Watch for that Brown Envelope":Complexities and Challenges of Undertaking Oral History with Ethiopian Forced Migrants in London, U.K." Oral History Review 37, no. 1 (2010). http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/oral_history_review/v037/37.1.palmer. html
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47 Performance Photos Top of Act One News Clip
50 "Lei Lei"
51 "Lei Leil" solo
52 "Lei Lei" niiko
53 "Lei Lei" niiko
54 "Our House"
55 "Love is the Key" chorus
56 "Love is the Key" small groups
59 "Her Majesty"