Messing, Simon D. (Simon David). Highland plateau Amhara of Ethiopia

Table of Contents

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Untitled Section: ...

Introduction: Thematic Synopsis

1. Land And People

1.1. General Orientation

1.1.1. Some General Terms

1.1.2 Some Linguistic Terms

1.2 The Land

1.2.1 Geographical Location

1.2.2 Climate, Climatic Zones, And Topography

1.2.3 Soil And Minerals

1.2.4 Flora And Fauna And Their Significance In Ethiopian Ecology.

1.3 A Brief Outline Of History

1.4 Physical Types In Ethiopia

1.5 The Peoples Of Ethiopia

1.5.1 The Demographic Pattern: Density, Rural-urban, Migration

1.5.2 Distribution Of The Population By Region, Language And Religion; Ethnic Stratification.

2. Ecology And Economy: Utilization Of Nature’s Products By The Amhara

2.1 Living Standards

2.1.1 The Rural Settlement

2.1.2 Shelter: The Amhara Hut

2.1.3 What Nature Provides: Lumbering, Hunting, Fishing, Collecting

2.1.4 Food Production And Consumption Agricultural Production Animal Husbandry Dietary Habits

2.1.5 Utensils And Tools

2.1.6 Clothing

2.1.7 Sanitation

2.1.8 Mutual Aid

2.2. The Division Of Labor

2.2.1 Division Of Labor By Sex

2.2.2 The Ethnic Division Of Labor Pottery-making Smithing Carpentry Tanning Weaving

2.2.3 Semi-specialized And Unskilled

2.2.4 Labor And The Market-town

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3. Social Organization

3.1. Land Tenure

3.1.1 Political Aspects Of The Old Tradition

3.1.2 Private Property - Rist

3.1.3 Semi-private Real Estate - Gult

3.1.4 Endowed Lands: Rist-gult

3.1.5 Some Regional Variations In Amhara Provinces

3.1.6 Crown Lands And Efforts To Centralize Land Tenure

3.1.7 Present Holdings And Problems Of Amhara Peasants Of Begemidir Province

3.2 The Military Camp And Its Significance In Amhara Social Structure

3.2.1 The Structure And Function Of The Military Camp

3.2.2 Social And Psychological Roles; Officers And Common Soldiers

3.2.3 Significance Of The Old Military Organization In Modern Change

3.3 Public Administration And Territorial Organization

3.3.1 Rural Administration

3.3.2 Urban Organization

3.3.3 Appointment To Office And Decision-making

3.3.4 The State And The Crown

3.3.5 Administration And Tax Structure In Transition

3.4 Customary Law And Justice

3.4.1 Ethiopian Law Codes

3.4.2 Contracts, Oath, And The Legal Person In Ethiopian Traditional Law

3.4.3 Judicial Personnel

3.4.4 Traditional Methods Of Investigating Crimes

3.4.5 Litigation

3.5 Structure And Function Of The Ethiopian Orthodox Church In Amhara Society

3.5.1 The Structure Of Church Organization Church Buildings And Design Parish Organization Personnel Of The Church And Church Education Utensils Of The Church Worship And Devotional Poetry Heretical Movements

3.5.2 The Functions Of The Church In The Life Of The Lay Public Sacerdotal Emphasis The Annual Cycle Of The Church Calendar The Religious Life Cycle Of The Lay Individual “saluting The Church” And Private Communion Religious Syncretism The Church And The Present National State

3.6 The Mehaber Fraternal Association

3.7 Family And Kinship In Social Organization

3.7.1 The Extended Family And Kinship Terms

3.7.2 Affinal Kinship And Residence

3.7.3 Artificial Kinship

3.8 Attitudes Based On Social Stratification

3.8.1 Stratification Regional Distinction And Feudal Nobility Peasants Ethnic Groups Religious Minority Racial Minority Servants And Economic Considerations

3.8.2 Age Stratification

3.8.3 Stratification By Sex

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4. The Life Cycle Of The Individual

4.1 The Beginning Of Life

4.1.1 The Desire For Children: Adoption

4.1.2 Pregnancy, Birth, Circumcision

4.1.3 Naming The Baby

4.1.4 The Long, Happy Nursling Stage.

4.2 The Age Of Experimentation: Infancy And Childhood

4.2.1 The Stage Of Infancy

4.2.2 The Stage Of Childhood, “reason”, Incipient Discipline

4.2.3 Training Through The Peer-group; Patterns Of Hazing.

4.2.4 Toys And Games

4.2.5 Formal Education And Extra-curricular Activities.

4.3 The Age Of Obedience: Adolescence

4.3.1 The Male Adolescent: Service And Young Warrior Statuses

4.3.2. The Adolescent Female: Informal Courtship In The Annual Cycle.

4.4 Adulthood And Marriage: Dominance Of The Kin

4.4.1 Marriage Patterns “semanya” Marriage Negotiations “semanya” Wedding Procedure Post-wedding Adjustments And Kin Relations

4.4.2 Problems Of The Married Couple; Divorce

4.5 The Age Of Dominance: The Elder

4.6 The End Of Life: Eulogy, Memorial Services, And Feasts

5. Non-material Culture Interpersonal Relations And Artistic Expression

5.1 Communication And Interpersonal Relations

5.1.1 The Raw Material Of The Amharic Language Put To Use Historical Development Lexical, Grammatical And Syntactical Phases Regional Variation Literature; Special Argots

5.1.2 Interpersonal Etiquette And Relationships Formal Expressions Of Status Of Class, Age, Sex Greetings And Address Visiting Hospitality And Dining

5.1.3 Verbal Expression: Formalities; Wit; Pedagogic Riddles

5.1.4 Artistic Expression: The Art Of Insult And Mockery

5.1.5 Gestures And Postures

5.1.6 The Language Of The Shemma

5.1.7 Dance, Chant, Musical Instruments

5.2 Play And Entertainment

5.2.1 Games And Leisure-time Activities

5.2.2 Sex In Amhara Culture

5.3 Expressive Physical Arts

5.3.1 Body Care And Ornamentation

5.3.2. Fine Arts

5.4 Amhara Ideas About Nature And Mankind

5.4.1 The Natural Universe

5.4.2 Amhara Ideas About Human Races; Ethnocentrism

5.4.3 Amhara Ideas About Body And Personality

6. Healing Body And Spirit

6.1 Healing The Body

6.1.1 The Surgeon-herbologist-empiricist: Utilizing Nature

6.1.2 Common Ailments And Their Treatment

6.2 Healing The Spirit

6.2.1 The Zar Cult Of Supernatural Spirits, Its Institution And Cosmology. The Zar Doctor, Patients, Procedures Of Healing; Basic Zar Personalities Characteristics And Attributes Of Male And Female Zar Spirits The Annual Convention Of The Zar Doctors; Voluntary Possession In The Cult Social Aspects Of The Zar Cult The “zar Language” Origin And Diffusion Of The Zar Cult.

6.2.2. Evil-eye Sickness (buda) And Its Healing. Basic Concepts Of Buda Symptoms Of Buda Disease Diagnosis, Treatment, And Prognosis Ethnic Caste Under Suspicion Of Sorcery Buda Doctors Past And Present

6.2.3 Evil-spirit Disease And The Diviner

6.2.4 The Debtera As Healer Summing Up The Position Of The Debtera The Cosmology Of Demons Treated By Amulets Summary Of The Debtera’s Syncretism In Healing The Spirit.

6.2.5 The Characteristic Significance Of Amhara Healing Of The Spirit

7. Concluding Observations About Amhara Culture And Society

7.1 Predominant Ecological Characteristics: Peasant Folk Society

7.2 How Amhara Culture Functions In Amhara Society

7.2.1 Ethos And Major Values: The Possessor And The Possessed

7.2.2 Culture Foci: Land, Kin, Rustic Vs. Noble, Government Hierarchy, Authoritarian Literalness, The Cultural Uses Of Intelligence.

7.2.3 Some Psychological Consideration Arising From The Life Cycle.

7.3 Culture Change And Amhara Society: Inertia Versus Modernization: The “change Agent”; The Amharization Of Ethiopia, The New Elite, Old Values, Outlook

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Publication Information


Title: Highland plateau Amhara of Ethiopia

Published By: New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 1985. 3 v. (xvii, 502 leaves)

By line: Simon D. Messing ; edited by M. Lionel Bender

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: HRAF, 1998. Computer File

Culture: Amhara (MP05)

Subjects: Glossary (104); Social stratification (560); Etiquette (576); Magical and mental therapy (755); Revelation and divination (787); Congregations (794); Ideas about nature and people (820);

Abstract: This is a comprehensive ethnograpy of rural Amhara society and culture circa 1950s, including an extensive 100-page glossary. Amhara society is extremely hierarchical, ranked by property relations, ethnicity and occupation. At the top are the descendants of a former military and religious fief-holding elite. At the bottom are occupational groups marked by their religious and ethnic differences. Although orthodox Christianity is the dominant state religion, Messing discusses a whole strata of animistic and syncretic beliefs and practices that are closely tied to Amhara medical views and remedies. Women are locked out of Amhara political and religious life, but play a major part in spirit possession cults, which Messing poses as a parallel world to the dominant patriarchal society. Also included are lengthy discussions of the Amhara life cycle and etiquette.

Document Number: 20

Document ID: mp05-020

Document Type: Monograph

Language: English

Note: Revision of thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Pennsylvania, 1957. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 482-502) and index

Field Date: 1953-54, 1961

Evaluation: Ethnologist-4,5

Analyst: Ian Skoggard ; 1996

Coverage Date: 1950s

Coverage Place: Gonder District, Ethiopia

LCSH: Amhara (African people)


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