'; ICES20 at Mekelle University: 20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies
Geralta mountains

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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EMBODIMENTS OF THE STATE: CIVIL SERVANTS AND PEASANTS IN RURAL ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1205-06]

Sabine PLANEL, Institut des Mondes Africains
Mehdi LABZAÉ, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, France

This paper analyses the social and political roles played by small civil servants and elected peasants at the qebele level. It draws on Lipsky’s intuition that street-level bureaucrats are "policy makers" in the sense that they have the discretionary power in how to implement policies. In a highly hierarchical political system where decentralization is said to be high on the agenda, this paper looks at the roles of these small embodiments of the state in service delivery and control of the population. For most of the peasants, “the state” first and foremost means “the qebele”. Hence the need for a sociological account of who these state agents are, how they see their duties, what their relation is with the EPRDF apparel, their economic condition, etc. We will also show how small state agents interact with local qebele chairmen, and how these two groups see each other. As the rural economy has evolved and opened up, representations of how civil servants see the peasantry have changed. By tracing social trajectories of young civil servants (such as sra askiaj) and older peasants (some qebele chairmen - wana astedadari) we will show how economic background inform their access to state positions. The paper is drawn on ethnographic data collected over the past ten years in Wolayta, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Tigray.