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Title: Whatever happened to respect? : values and change in a southwest Ethiopian (Aari) community
Author: Sommerschuh, Julian Jasper
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 9433
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Based on 22 months of fieldwork in highland southwestern Ethiopia, this thesis focuses on the role of values in processes of social change. The thesis thus joins current efforts to move beyond seeing values exclusively as factors of social reproduction. Extending earlier research, I argue that it is not only the adoption of new values that can lead to profound change. Established values can be powerful drivers of change, too: The desire to realize their values more fully can motivate people to take up new and substantially different forms of practice. At the same time, what promises a fuller realization of one value may turn out to undermine another, and this can motivate further change. My theoretical argument emerges from an ethnographic analysis of change in Dell, a rural Aari community in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. The starting point of this analysis is the people of Dell's frequent lament about a change for the worse in the social life of their community. On their account, feasting and everyday hospitality are on the wane, neighbours hardly visit each other anymore, there is less unity and affection among kin, and greed, envy and selfishness are on the rise. Summarily, Dell people discuss these changes as a decline of 'respect' (Aari'af: bonshmi, Amharic: keber). To explain this decline as well as to understand how people cope with it, this thesis examines the recent history of Dell. The first part of the thesis shows that the decline of respect has been an effect of attempts to better realize established values through new cultural means. First, since the late 1990s, almost two thirds of the population have become evangelical Christians. Motivated by a quest for blessings, conversion came at the cost of respect: it is only by abstaining from numerous practices which previously mediated respect that God's blessing can be secured. Second, over the past decade, Dell people have embarked on a quest for economic development. Motivated by a long-standing concern with building 'name' through wealth, the pursuit of development requires shifting resources from kinship and commensality - which afford respect - to modern forms of wealth - which do not. In the second part of the thesis, I examine two responses to the decline of respect, both of which constitute attempts to revive a more respectful mode of sociality. I discuss the Evangelicals' current struggle to mobilize Christianity as a way to confine people's feverish quest for development and the antagonisms that are its result. And I analyse the recent emergence of an Ethiopian Orthodox community in Dell as an attempt to rebuild relations centred on commensality. Primarily a contribution to the anthropology of values and the study of change, this thesis also engages with debates about Christian individualism, economic development as an ethical project, the relation between evangelical Christianity and economic development, and dis/continuity in conversion to Orthodox Christianity.
Supervisor: Robbins, Joel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Values ; Change ; Ethiopia ; Christianity ; Development ; State ; Aari ; Respect ; Respectability