Synergy of descent, history and tradition: Sidama ethnic identification

Ambaye Ogato Anata

Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag

Year of publication



The Sidama are found in the northeast of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Regional State (SNNPRS). They define their ethnic identity using different terms and on the basis of different criteria. This study explores three commonly used criteria: descent, history and tradition. The process of Sidama ethnic identification passed through a turbulent phase during the incorporation of the Sidama into the 'modern' Ethiopian empire in the late nineteenth century. After the incorporation of the Sidama, the government vociferously denounced and marginalized the traditional institutions of the Sidama and introduced state-sponsored institutions such as the 'church' and 'modern education'. This forced Sidama traditions to be practised 'under the radar' and led to feelings of resistance against the administration. However, as will be argued in this study, this turbulent phase evolved into a resource among the Sidama for promoting and deepening dimensions of identification, and inextricably became a part of future discourse with regard to Sidama identification.

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