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Ivo Strecker, Jean Lydall (Eds.)
The Perils of Face
Essays on cultural contact, respect and self-esteem in southern Ethiopia
Reihe: Mainzer Beiträge zur Afrika-Forschung
Bd. 10, 2006, 448 S., 29.90 EUR, 29.90 CHF, br., ISBN 3-8258-6122-8


At the end of the 19th Century, southern Ethiopia was one of the last areas to experience the "Scramble for Africa", as Emperor Menelik II sent his armies south to conquer and incorporate this territory into his empire. For almost hundred years, the peoples of southern Ethiopia had to live under the highly centralised rule of the Emperor and later that of the Marxist Dergue regime, but this changed in 1991, when a new constitution was proclaimed and all barriers of class, gender, ethnic affiliation, religion and place of birth were officially abolished. But how can such a transformation to a new social order be achieved? What are its obstacles and what are its prospects? To answer this question it is indispensable to know how the culturally different peoples of Ethiopia remember their past, and what conceptions they entertain of each other. The present essays try to address this issue. In particular, they explore the dangers inherent in situations of cultural contact and examine how the powerful notions of pride, honor, name, and self-esteem come into play, as people struggle to maintain their identity, individually or as a group. The master trope for this kind of sensitivity and vulnerability in social and cultural interaction is "face". This is why the volume is entitled "The perils of face".

Contributions: Preface (S. Bekele), Approaches to the study of cultural contact (A.-M. Brandstetter), Personal names and identity formation (B. Yimam), Communication across cultural divides (C. Meyer), 'Face' as a metaphor of respect and self-esteem. Lessons from Hamar (I. Strecker), Two "first contact" situations in southern Ethiopia (F. Girke), A history of pride and confrontation in South Omo (I. Strecker), Hor memories of Sidaama conquest (Y. Miyawaki), The pride of the Gudji (T. Berisso), Of snakes and cattle (J. Abbink), A peace ceremony at Arbore (A. Pankhurst), Metamorphosis of a Karmet song in Arbore (E. C. Gabbert), Having friends everywhere (W. G. Tadesse), Imperilled name and pained heart (J. Lydall), Communicating self-esteem (S. Epple), The lip-plates of Mursi women as source of self-esteem and stigma (S. LaTosky).



Ivo Strecker is Professor Emeritus of Cultural Anthropology at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, and Director of the South Omo Research Center.

Jean Lydall is a free-lance anthropologist and film maker, and Assistant Director of the SouthOmo Research Center.






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