'Now the people are like a lord' : local effects of revolutionary reform in a Tigray village, northern Ethiopia
The thesis examines aspects of social change in rural Tigray, northern Ethiopia. It is based on fieldwork conducted between February 1993 and February 1995 in two villages located on the south central highland plateau: Enda Mariyam, and Tegula. The majority of fieldwork was conducted in Enda Mariyam - a village of some 228 farming households - and spanned two complete agricultural years. The thesis considers the local implications of reform measures implemented by nationalist rebels - the Tigray People's Liberation Front - as part of a revolutionary agenda for the transformation of 'traditional' Ethiopian peasant society. These measures included, most notably, land tenure reform, as well as changes in customary law and the re-organisation of rural administration. In addition, campaigns were mounted aimed at modifying certain aspects of peasant practice. In the context of a village-based ethnography, the thesis aims to qualify the most significant effects of these measures on social life and livelihoods. A key concern is how reform measures have affected the relationship between subsistence-oriented production, social organisation, and social stratification. In a setting where agricultural inputs - including land, oxen, and seed - are scarce, differential abilities amongst farming households to access agricultural inputs informs the pattern of social relationships. In this context, land reform is intimately linked to changes in the dynamics of wealth differentiation and social stratification in the village. The implications for the position of 'big men' and cultural notions of status-honour are considered. Together with land reform, reform of customary law in the area of marriage and divorce has wrought subtle but important changes in marriage and divorce practices, and the nature of intra-household relationships. It is argued that public campaigns for the 'emancipation' of women have probably had less effect on the ability of women to exert power within marriage, than the economic penalties that men now face upon divorce. Attempts to modify peasant religious practice are also examined, including efforts to minimise the number of holidays in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar. The outcome of these attempts is explored in terms of notions of disaster and risk, the traditional authority of the Church, and the fragmentation of consensus around religious practice in the village.