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Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-East Africa

Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-East Africa: Volume I: Ethiopia and Kenya

Günther Schlee
Elizabeth E. Watson
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-East Africa
    Book Description:

    Forms of group identity play a prominent role in everyday lives and politics in northeast Africa. Case studies from Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya illustrate the way that identities are formed and change over time, and how local, national, and international politics are interwoven. Specific attention is paid to the impact of modern weaponry, new technologies, religious conversion, food and land shortages, international borders, civil war, and displacement on group identities. Drawing on the expertise of anthropologists, historians and geographers, these volumes provide a significant account of a society profoundly shaped by identity politics and contribute to a better understanding of the nature of conflict and war, and forms of alliance and peacemaking, thus providing a comprehensive portrait of this troubled region.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-957-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Maps, Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Günther Schlee

    One of the most basic questions of social science, namely who belongs to whom and why, continues to remain without an answer or to be answered in too many alternative ways, which amounts to the same thing. To explain collective identifications by group interests, as is sometimes attempted, falls short of a solution since, as groups emerge, their changing composition may lead to changing perceptions of shared interests. Any attempt to manipulate identities according to perceptions of political or economic interest has to start from pre-existing identifications. The options of those who have an influence on the form and change...

  7. Space and Time: Introduction to the Geography and Political History
    (pp. 15-32)
    Günther Schlee and Elizabeth E. Watson

    The chapters in these volumes deal in different ways with the interactions between history, contemporary political manoeuvrings, geographical locations, the communication of knowledge and ideas, collective memories and power relations. Identities and alliances are produced through the interactions between these endogenous and exogenous structures and agency. Overall, these interactions can be summarized as being strongly influenced by the shifting and unstable relations between space and time. Historically in this region, these processes have been dominated by relations between centres and peripheries: the centres have promulgated policies and promoted ‘developments’ that have been accepted, resisted or transformed by even the smallest...

  8. Part I. Identification and Insecurity in the Lower Omo Valley

    • Chapter 1 The Fate of the Suri: Conflict and Group Tension on the South-West Ethiopian Frontier
      (pp. 35-52)
      Jon Abbink

      The Suri people in south-west Ethiopia are one of the minority groups (numbering about 28,000 people) that under Ethiopian electoral law have automatic representation in the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives because they do not form a unit large enough for an electoral constituency. Since 1995 the seat for the Suri had been occupied by Guldu Tsedeke, a promising young Suri man and well accepted among the people themselves. He was re-elected with a large majority in May 2000 as an independent candidate (i.e. not affiliated with the ruling party). In early January 2002, this MP was killed in a...

    • Chapter 2 Resistance and Bravery: On Social Meanings of Guns in South-West Ethiopia
      (pp. 53-76)
      Ken Masuda

      Guns are not only material and industrial products, they are also symbols of violence and triggers of memories, and sometimes they even form a historical index that reflects the political history of a particular location. While I was living among the Banna, I sometimes tried to touch or take a picture of a person’s gun, but I was rarely successful because of the political and social attributes of guns.

      The political attributes of guns are constructed in particular settings. One such setting is the Ethiopian centre/periphery situation, which stratifies the relationship between the centre of government and peripheral society, culturally,...

    • Chapter 3 Modernization in the Lower Omo Valley and Adjacent Marches of Eastern Equatoria, Sudan: 1991–2000
      (pp. 77-86)
      Serge Tornay

      Addressing the question of changing identifications and alliances over the last ten years, that is, since the fall of Mengistu, in the remote south-west of Ethiopia and adjacent marches, or borderlands, of Sudan does not make sense without first describing the background.

      Are there ‘more chances on the fringe of the state’? It is under this title that, at the Bergen workshop of April 1992, I addressed the question of the ‘growing power’ of the Nyangatom during a period of about twenty years since the beginning of my study (1970) and the beginning of humanitarian assistance (1972). I suggested that...

  9. Part II. Institutions of Identification and Networks of Alliance among Rift Valley Agriculturalists

    • Chapter 4 Burji: Versatile by Tradition
      (pp. 89-102)
      Hermann Amborn

      In this chapter I would like to discuss processes that have taken place in turning a community of D’aaši speakers into a people who now consider themselves to be Burji. The evidence of these changes is drawn from seventy years of ethnographic research, some of which is my own. While belonging to the D’aaši community in former times provided a taken-for-granted framework for the identity of the individual, Burji people today have multiple identities. In this context, awareness of being Burji plays an important role. Therefore, my chapter is not about radically changing or giving up one’s identity, but its...

    • Chapter 5 The Significance of the Oral Traditions of the Burji for Perceiving and Shaping their Inter-ethnic Relations
      (pp. 103-112)
      Alexander Kellner

      In this chapter I shall try to show that the oral traditions of the Burji play a significant role in how Burji perceive and shape their inter-ethnic relations. Myths of origin, migrational traditions or oral historical accounts are not just petty stories that have no relevance for the present. On the contrary, they are important elements of the discursive framework in which people discuss and reflect upon actual problems, their own identity and their relations to other groups. Oral traditions provide, as I shall show, images and blueprints out of which people develop discursive lines in order to evaluate their...

    • Chapter 6 Mobility, Knowledge and Power: Craftsmen in the Borderland
      (pp. 113-132)
      Hermann Amborn

      There is an indestructible trope that is perpetuated both by northern Ethiopians in the towns of the south, and even by European scholars. It is the idea that craftworkers anywhere in south-western Ethiopia are despised groups or castes. The artisans themselves have become aware of these defamatory notions, and have felt the effects of being considered in this light by outsiders.¹ In this chapter I shall discuss how they learned to cope with this problem, and the creative strategies they invented to reverse the power directed against them. I shall argue that this learning process had positive effects – largely unnoticed...

  10. Part III. Land, Identification and the State in Ethiopia

    • Chapter 7 ‘We Have Been Sold’: Competing with the State and Dealing with Others
      (pp. 135-154)
      Tadesse Wolde Gossa

      This chapter provides an overview of the relations between the people of the Gamo highlands and their land, and between the Gamo people and the Ethiopian state. It explores the impact of the state in the period of conquest and incorporation, and the state’s subsequent conduct regarding its subjects, particularly in relation to the nature and impact of land alienation.

      The Gamo people number about a million, and they live in the mountains and surrounding lowlands of the Gamo Gofa Highlands in southern Ethiopia. They understand and explain the initial stage of the process of losing their land at the...

    • Chapter 8 Identity, Encroachment and Ethnic Relations: the Gumuz and their Neighbours in North-Western Ethiopia
      (pp. 155-172)
      Wolde-Selassie Abbute

      The Gumuz¹ are a group of people that inhabit an area that extends from Metemma southwards through Gondar, Gojjam/Metekel, and across the River Abbay up to the Diddesa valley in Wollega, western Ethiopia (see Map I.1). They designate themselves the Bega.² Linguistically, they belong to the Koman group of the Central-Sudanic branch in the Nilo-Saharan language family (Blench 2000). In the present administrative context, the Gumuz predominantly inhabit Metekel Zone to the north and Kamashi Zone to the south of the River Abbay, in the Benishangul-Gumuz National Regional State. Metekel Zone is the focus of this study.

      Low-lying topography dominates...

    • Chapter 9 Debates over Culture in Konso since Decentralization (1991)
      (pp. 173-190)
      Elizabeth E. Watson

      This chapter examines some of the changes that have taken place in Konso since it became a ‘specialwereda’, a self-administering unit in the new Ethiopian federal state that is structured along ethnic lines. Konso qualified for this status because it was considered to be a culturally and linguistically distinct minority nationality. In recognizing the Konso as a separate identity and giving them the right to a degree of self-determination, the government was also valuing their culture and livelihoods, reversing decades of government policy that celebrated northern Amhara culture and viewed all others as inferior. The rights of different nationalities...

    • Chapter 10 Changing Alliances of Guji-Oromo and their Neighbours: State Policies and Local Factors
      (pp. 191-200)
      Taddesse Berisso

      The Guji are one of the many branches of the Oromo people. In the administrative division of the current regime, they live predominantly in Guji and Borana zones of the Oromiyaa Regional State, southern Ethiopia. The Borana, Arsi, Sidama, Gedeo, Burji, Konso, Wolaita, Koyra, Gamo and Garre are some of the major neighbouring groups of the Guji. Historically, the relationship of the Guji with all their neighbouring groups (except with the Gedeo and the Sidama who live in Wondo Genet area) was characterized by conflict and hostility. Warfare was endemic, generally taking the form of raids against the various Oromo...

  11. Part IV. Pastoralists in the Kenya-Ethiopia Borderlands

    • Chapter 11 Changing Alliances among the Boran, Garre and Gabra in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia
      (pp. 203-224)
      Günther Schlee

      After the elections of 27 December 2007, Kenya was beset by ethnic violence. The rival presidential candidates had ethnic constituencies, and, as violence along these ethnic boundaries erupted, many scores that had nothing to do with the presidential elections were settled. Most of them were about land issues, others about business opportunities and employment. There have been large-scale expulsions of people, reminiscent of ‘ethnic cleansing’, a term coined in association with Bosnia in the early 1990s. Even if the present attempt at power-sharing results in lowered levels of violence, Kenya has taken further steps towards being a country divided along...

    • Chapter 12 Roads to Nowhere: Nomadic Understandings of Space and Ethnicity
      (pp. 225-240)
      John C. Wood

      Is there a relationship between people’s understandings of land and their sense of themselves as a society? Do nomads, who use places and spaces differently from settled populations, understand the dynamics, the limits, the boundaries of their social groups differently? And, if so, do these differences shape nomadic responses to ethnic and international others? This chapter asks these questions as it tries to make sense of the response – or lack of response – by Gabra nomads of northern Kenya to multinational petroleum exploration in Gabra grazing and watering areas. Contrary to my expectations, the Gabra did not see oil explorers as...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-252)
  13. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 253-256)
  14. Index
    (pp. 257-260)