Mythical Roots, Phantasmic Realities and Transnational Migrants: Yemenis Across the Gulf of Aden

Author(s) Samson A. Bezabeh
Contact Samson A. Bezabeh, University of Bergen, P.O.Box 7800, 5020 Bergen, Norway. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 6, Iss. 2, 2012, pp. 28-53
Published November 10, 2012
Type Article
Abstract This article analyzes the relationship between transnational migration, state-based religious cosmologies and new electronic media. It illustrates the way mythical realities and a Christian cosmology have structured the existence of the Yemeni diaspora. In analyzing the way mythical realities have been deployed, I seek to understand how old ways of creating boundaries have been redeployed in electronic landscapes. Much has been written regarding the interface between religion and media. Yet little attention has been paid to the phantasmic element that exists in digital-based transnational discourses. Drawing on the Lacanian concept of jouissance in this article, I pinpoint how mythical realities, important for creating boundaries, also operate at the phantasmic level. In doing so, I ultimately aim to show how transnational migration across borders operates within a field that is dotted with religious mythology and phantasmic realities that are increasingly expressed in the electronic landscape. I also show how the changing relationship between Muslims and Christians should be explained by taking more factors into account than concrete human reality. Explanations should also be sought in the distant past and in the domain of fantasy, which has so far proved to be uncomfortable ground for most scholars studying religious dynamics in the Horn of Africa.
Keywords Ethiopia, identity, migration, cosmology, Islam, Yemen, muslim minorities, Christianity, internet, study of religion, ethnography, media studies, conflict