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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Sabine TROEGER, University of Bonn, Germany

Supplementing the general perspective of the panel on unique resources of indigenous and century old political, philosophical and socio-ecological knowledge with local reference to Lower Omo environments the presentation focuses on the overarching question of power of political representation and processes of transforming hegemonic structures. The paper reflects on modes and chances of Natural Resource Management (NRM) in terms of decentralized executive powers, responsibility and authority in decision taking in the hands of communities and local actors, in this case with special emphasis on pastoralist environments in the Lower Omo. In reference to empirical data from the Nyangatom community (data assessment: 2015, see Troeger 2016, 2018 in print) the claim for ‘governance for structural transformation’, as just recently emphasized on international grounds in Addis Ababa - Dec. 4-6 2017 (AEC) -, will be questioned. The argument concentrates on the articulation of social constructions in the recently advocated field of political decentralization and the mainstreaming of participatory approaches, capturing the ‘development narrative’ in Ethiopia in the shape of ‘committees’ according to the Northern ideal of democracy. It reflects on the ambiguous effects of these ideals in their meaning for processes of environmental communication in ethnic communities in the Lower Omo. With reference to empirical evidence in the field of enclosing rangeland in pastoralist environments it is argued that processes of communication do not manifest in the open and freed from structural power, dominance and, on the other hand, exclusion and voicelessness. Building on statements of Jaques Rancière (1999) and Chantal Mouffe (2013) as well as on the idea of ‘dispositiv’ as interpreted by Foucault (1977), the argument draws towards the momentum of disagreement and a rejection of the ideal of consensus finding as captured in the societal institution of a ‘committee’. Referring to the voice of the people the argument relinquishes the claim that the process of democratization should consist in the global implementation of the Northern liberal democratic model. Democracy in a multipolar world can take a variety of forms, according to the different modes of inscription of the democratic ideal in multiplural contexts.