Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.
CONTESTING THE PAST AND NEGOTIATING THE FUTURE: ETHNICITY, ETHNIC RELATIONS AND IDENTITY TRANSFORMATION OF THE QEMANT [Abstract ID: 0505-02]
This study examines how state ethnic policies and political ideologies shape interethnic interactions and ethnic identity re/construction. Based on diachronic perspective and qualitative research methodology, it scrutinizes the changes and continuities in ethnic relations and ethnic boundary transformation between the Qemant and the Amhara in the pre and post 1991 periods. The Qemant in the past were relatively “culturally independent and socially and politically semi-autonomous from the surrounding dominant Amhara” (Gamst 1968: 3). Especially, the ancestral religious belief and associated practices were key ethnic integrative mechanisms serving as a means of ethnic identification and behavioral regulation of ethnic members. Religious difference marked by the notion of purity and impurity largely dictated interactions and boundaries between the Qemant and the neighboring Amhara. However, the unitary and integration-oriented state ethnic policies that characterized different regimes of Ethiopia since the mid 19th century led to the blurring of the boundary between the Qemant and the Amhara. By privileging diversity through the recognition of multidimensional ethnic rights, ethnic federalism as a new political ideology of the post-1990s brought change in the nature of relationships between the Qemant and the Amhara. As the notion of behér (lit. ethnicity) got crystallized in, ethnic actors began to see religion and ethnicity separately and the ethnic boundary began to be re-conceptualized and reframed differently. The historical, political, ideological, and symbolic accounts became self-recounted so as to reanimate the boundary and justify each distinct ethnic category. The reactivated boundary in the form of the identity quest movement of the Qemant and ethnic otherness resulted in tensions and conflicts. In general, state ethnic policy of diversity management has different implications for self ethnic perceptions and definitions, interethnic identifications and interactions as well as territorial conceptions of ethnic groups.