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EXPERIENCES OF SLAVERY FROM THE SUBALTERN PERSPECTIVE OF THE MAO OF WESTERN ETHIOPIA – PAST MEMORIES AND CONTEMPORARY PERCEPTIONS [Abstract ID: 0507-02]
This presentation will focus on how slavery is remembered and perceived by the Mao people living in Western Wollega and how the experiences are incorporated into the contemporary Mao society. The Mao people were subject of slavery until the end of imperial times and a stigma of social marginalisation based on slave descent is still felt today. Thus, the collective memory of slavery, still at the forefront of their social narratives, is linked to contemporary social events and traditions. The Mao see a relationship between slavery and historical and current existence of domestic labour for families belonging to other people groups, for example through foster relations. Furthermore, foster relations between the Mao and other, majority groups have resulted in a substantial degree of cultural alienation. Consequently, a social class of “black Oromo” who don’t speak any Mao language has emerged, being perceived as descendants of domestic workers or slaves – two phenomena often is seen in close association with each other. The presentation is based on an exploratory field research involving single in-depth interviews and group discussions with people of all ages and genders in the Mao communities, mainly living in Kondala Woreda of Western Wollega. For the historical accounts of slavery, knowledgeable elders have been consulted, but also the perceptions of young people on the experiences of slavery are considered.