Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Till Jakob Frederik TROJER, PhD Candidate in Anthropology and Sociology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, United Kingdom

I started chewing ch’at as an exchange student at Addis Ababa University in 2010/11 (eight month). Since then I have returned multiply times for longer stays to Ethiopia 2012 as an intern for German organisation (three month) and in 2014/15 as exchange student at Mekelle University (seven month). Currently, August 2017 to September 2018, I’m conducting my PhD research in Anthropology and Sociology in North-Eastern Ethiopia. During my time in Ethiopia I have been a regular consumer of ch’at and have chewed with different people, ranging from high-profile Ethiopian business man and politicians to the local street dweller. I chewed alone to study or together with friends, sometimes strangers, of different gender, age, social, religious and ethnic background. I chewed in the back rooms of small shops, hotels and guest houses, minibuses, homes, on the street, in private rooms and places where people engaged in illegal gambling, smoked shisha and watch pornography while chewing. This presentation is purely based on personal observations and own experiences of chewing ch’at as foreigner (ferenji) in Ethiopia. By applying Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological reduction, I explore the effects and the impact of märqana on the perception of the self. This is an honest, self-experimental reflection on the positive and negative consequences of “highness”. Specifically, I will focus on the deep abyss between who I presume to be and what märqana makes me think who I am. This conflict of the self-image will be analysed on the background of anthropological studies of choice, identity and personhood as well as philosophical and phenomenological theories of the self-state.