Working Paper 75

Christianity and Spirit Mediums: experiencing post-socialist religious freedom in southern Ethiopia

Data Dea

Abteilung ‚Integration und Konflikt’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 75

This paper looks at aspects of post-socialist religious dynamics in Ethiopia. The rule of military socialism in Ethiopia came to an end in 1991. The new government declared a number of ‘freedoms’ including religious freedom. However, translating this declared freedom into real experience entails complex challenges. With ethnographic material drawn from southern Ethiopia , this paper examines the process of ‘tapping’ post-socialist religious freedom. The paper focuses especially on interaction between spirit mediums and two forms of Christianity, namely Ethiopian Orthodox and Evangelical Christianity. The ethnography reveals that different interpretations and appropriations of post-socialist religious freedom have led, paradoxically, to repression of certain forms of religiosity, in this case spirit mediumship in particular, but also certain ways of practicing Christianity. Examining these issues throws some light on the conditions of tolerance or intolerance between different traditions of religiosity.

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