21st COE Program Seminar
Public Seminar on African Area Studies
Date: Thursday, September 28, 2006 15:00 - 17:00
Venue: Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies
Title: "Interrogating "Texts" and "Traditions" of Resistance: New Arenas of Historical and Anthropological Research in Southern Ethiopia "
Speaker: Dr. Tekalign Wolde-Mariam
(Addis Ababa University )
This paper is part of a bigger work that envisions, among other things, possibilities for joint research agendas and greater methodological symbioses between historians and anthropologists of southern Ethiopia. It seeks to underline the need to go beyond the conventional "exchange" of anthropological and historical perspectives toward a more deliberate cross fertilization between the two, and possibly also their fusion in some areas. To the extent that the term "historical anthropology" denotes this half way house, the paper will attempt to make a case for that model of research and analysis. However, partly because I come into this venture from the side of history, I will anchor my arguments for historical anthropology on the study of a historical topic, namely resistance.
I address aspects of this topic that lend themselves to historical and anthropological analysis by examining the ways in which various groups of people in the south responded to a series of interventionist initiatives of the Ethiopian state in the second half of the twentieth century. I believe that working with a wider conception of resistance, and shifting the focus somewhat to nonviolent and open forms of protest will bring to our attention political and socio-cultural processes that can be greatly illuminated through joint historical and anthropological studies.
Empirical information for my work comes from a large body of petitions to the imperial government from the two Oromo-speaking regions of Arsi and Wollega. I will argue that the arguments contained in these petitions, as well as the idioms in which they were expressed, provide interesting clues into how resistance was associated with a dynamic process of reformulation and re-conceptualization of local social structure as well as of local history and tradition. I will conclude by identifying those aspects of these reformulations and re-conceptualizations that historical research can recapture and those aspects that can be more profitably illuminated through intensive research by anthropologists.
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University