28/02/2015
lisa monaghan

J. Abbink (2009). Conflict and social change on the south-west Ethiopian frontier: an analysis of Suri society

This article examines changing configurations of regional conflict in south-west Ethiopia around the Suri people, a ‘‘beleaguered’’ ethnic group of about 2425,000 people living on the SudaneseEthiopian border. The question will be asked around why the Suri, a small agro-pastoral people at the margins of state power centres, failed to develop solutions to growing problems of group conflict, challenges of state policy, the spread of small arms (since the late 1980s), and the lack of forming new local alliances with neighbouring groups. Social and cultural effects of violence are fragmenting Suri society and their regional position is weakened, in contrast to, for instance, the Nyangatom or Anywaa, neighbouring ethnic groups of comparable size, but who are more successful in the ethnofederal
political structure of post-1991 Ethiopia. In addition, while the Suri are affected by new globalizing influences like tourism and evangelical Christianity, there is only a very slowmovement towards, respectively, more inclusive identification e.g., by religious conversion or through the incorporation of new elements into their mode of life. The
reasons for the present crisis of Suri society, which is partly one of livelihoods decline, failing identification and insecurity about the future, will be explored and the conditions of inter-ethnic instability in the region described. The role of the Ethiopian state as a political model largely incapable of accommodating difference and diversity will also be discussed in assessing the ‘‘fate’’ of smaller ethnic groups such as the Suri in politico economically marginal zones with high levels of insecurity.

Category: Anthropology and History

Sub-category: Regional