Wagner Professor Steven W. Thomas Publishes Articles on Ethiopian Cinema and Ethiopian-American Literature

Wagner Professor Steven W. Thomas Publishes Articles on Ethiopian Cinema and Ethiopian-American Literature

This year, 2020, Dr. Steven W. Thomas, professor in Wagner College's English department, published three articles on Ethiopian cinema and Ethiopian-American literature.

His most recent article is an entertaining piece of journalism titled "The Woman Blowing Up Ethiopia's Movie Industry" by Zócalo Public Square, an on-line magazine published by Arizona State University to foster lively conversation about issues of interest to the general public. Thomas's article profiles some of the amazing women driving the growing movie industry in Ethiopia. It celebrates the history of innovation and the variety of movies, perspectives, and experiences among producers, writers, and directors. Overturning stereotypes of Ethiopia as a place of patriarchal, ancient tradition, the article showcases the progressive spirit, multi-ethnic pluralism, and commitment to gender equality among many of the country's media professionals.

Earlier this summer, Dr. Thomas's essay titled "Theorizing Globalization in Ethiopia's Movie Industry" appeared in Black Camera, a scholarly journal published by Indiana University Press that specializes in African-American, Caribbean, and African cinema studies. Thomas's essay situates Ethiopian movie production in the context of its unique economic policy in order to analyze how filmmakers have responded to dynamic social transformations in their country. In doing so, Thomas makes a crucial intervention in the academic field by clarifying how previous approaches to African cinema, which may have worked well for the films of Ousmane Sembene or for the social dynamic of Nollywood, are not as useful for characterizing Ethiopian cinema, which requires an alternative approach.

During the spring semester, his essay "The Context of Multi-ethnic Politics for Ethiopian American Literature" came out in the journal MELUS (Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States), published by Oxford University Press. Thomas uses the 2018 novel The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat as a lens for re-envisioning the past few decades of Ethiopian-American literature such as the novels of Dinaw Mengestu and the memoir of Nega Mezlekia that reflect on the African immigrant experience. He situates this literature within the complex history of ethnic politics that has challenged communities both in Ethiopia and in its expatriated Diaspora from the 1960s and still today.

Professor Thomas continues his scholarly investigation into these topics while he works to build a bridge between Wagner College and his colleagues in Ethiopia.