Ritual and Political Forms of Violent Practice among the Suri of Southern Ethiopia

This article presents an account of the ideological form and practical exercise of violence among the Chai, a subgroup of the Suri (or Surma) people, agropastoralists in southern Ethiopia. In theoretical terms, the general question is addressed of how, on the elementary level of small-scale, relatively traditional society without stratification, central leadership and modern economic features, ‘violence’ is constructed and performed, and how it partly defines the social persona and collectivity of this group, as opposed to others. The author asserts that, while the connections of the Suri with other ethno-cultural groups in a partially shared environment and contacts with State forces are not new – recent political, ecological and other developments have an important transformative impact on their patterns of violence. The past years have shown a serious crisis in the relations between the Chai and their neighbours. Both internal, thus far ritually contained Chai violence, as well as violence towards other groups, tends to break the bounds of custom and to turn into the uninhibited use of force. While it makes available new options for local people, the new violence tends to endanger the coexistence of groups as well as the peace in Chai society itself. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. (Revised version in: Meanings of violence: a cross cultural perspective, ed. by Gran Aijmer and Jon Abbink, Oxford [etc.], 2000, p. 77-100.)

Title: Ritual and Political Forms of Violent Practice among the Suri of Southern Ethiopia
Author: Abbink, Jon G.
Year: 1998
Periodical: Cahiers d’tudes africaines
Volume: 38
Issue: 150-152
Pages: 271-295
Language: English
Geographic term: Ethiopia
External link: https://doi.org/10.3406/cea.1998.1804
Abstract: This article presents an account of the ideological form and practical exercise of violence among the Chai, a subgroup of the Suri (or Surma) people, agropastoralists in southern Ethiopia. In theoretical terms, the general question is addressed of how, on the elementary level of small-scale, relatively traditional society without stratification, central leadership and modern economic features, ‘violence’ is constructed and performed, and how it partly defines the social persona and collectivity of this group, as opposed to others. The author asserts that, while the connections of the Suri with other ethno-cultural groups in a partially shared environment and contacts with State forces are not new – recent political, ecological and other developments have an important transformative impact on their patterns of violence. The past years have shown a serious crisis in the relations between the Chai and their neighbours. Both internal, thus far ritually contained Chai violence, as well as violence towards other groups, tends to break the bounds of custom and to turn into the uninhibited use of force. While it makes available new options for local people, the new violence tends to endanger the coexistence of groups as well as the peace in Chai society itself. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. (Revised version in: Meanings of violence: a cross cultural perspective, ed. by Gran Aijmer and Jon Abbink, Oxford [etc.], 2000, p. 77-100.)