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DEV Research Seminar – Wednesday 15th May

Marco Di Nunzio, from the University of Birmingham, will be presenting his research on street life and marginality in Ethiopia this Wednesday.


The act of living. Street life, marginality and development in urban Ethiopia

Wednesday 15th May | ARTS 01.01 | 3.30-5pm | Marco Di Nunzio

Born in Addis Ababa’s inner city between the 1960s and 1970s, Haile and Ibrahim witnessed their country lifting itself from being a global symbol of famine and poverty to become the paradigmatic African success story by the mid-2010s. Amidst this transformation Haile and Ibrahim also experienced changes, not in their individual destinies, but in their relation with the fortunes of Ethiopia. Growing up during economic stagnation – the 1970s and 1980s – they had learned to recognize their poverty and marginality amidst widely shared experiences of scarcity and exclusion. But as their country prospered, and high-rise steel and glass buildings began popping up in Addis Ababa’s wealthier neighborhoods, marginality persisted for Haile and Ibrahim’s cohort, now with a sense of being out of tune with history. This talk narrates the biographies of these two men. It follows how they grew up, entered the street economy of hustling and crime and then tried to find ways out through labor, migration, education, entrepreneurship and the city’s informal economies. By documenting how these two life trajectories intertwine with other urban lives as well as the unfolding of Ethiopia’s history, I explore why development continues to fail the poor, how marginality is understood and acted upon in a time of promise and why poor people’s claims for open-endedness can constitute the grounds on which to imagine better and more just alternative futures.