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Ägandets etnografi: människan och jorden hos Macha Oromo i Etiopien

Kapitel i bok
Författare Jan Hultin
Publicerad i Mats Widgren (red.), Äganderätten i lantbrukets historia (Skrifter om skogs- och lantbrukshistoria, 8)
Sidor 73-98
ISBN 91-7108-397-9
Förlag Nordiska Muséets förlag
Förlagsort Stockholm
Publiceringsår 1995
Publicerad vid Socialantropologiska institutionen
Sidor 73-98
Språk sv
Ämnesord jordägande, äganderätt, Oromo, Etiopien
Ämneskategorier Socialantropologi


[English summary, pp. 168-169:]

Man and Land among the Macha Oromo of Ethiopia

This paper deals with Oromo ideas of land tenure and relates to some classical and interrelated issues in anthropology: one is the continuous debate on descent; another is the question of whether land tenure is to be regarded as part of the legal system (and analyzed in terms of 'rights') or of the economic system of society (and analyzed e.g. in terms of social relations of production) or how both aspects can be accounted for.

While it may well be possible to give an ethnographically satisfactory account of the ‘descent of rights’, there is still a problem with the juridical aspect in the concept of 'rights', especially in the ethnographic account of property. This last must not be reduced to a set of abstract rules, it exists only in a concrete process of appropriation: it is socially constructed and culturally modelled. Therefore, an analysis of the cultural constitution of resource use, of how the utilization of nature is invested with value and meaning, may also inform the analysis of descent and property.

Among the Oromo, descent is a cultural construct by which people conceive of their relations to each other and to livestock and land; it is an ideology for representing property relations. At the same time 'property' (whether ritual attributes, land or livestock) is a cultural or ideological construct for creating and representing filiation and male personal identity, and even for representing descent groups. The relationship between the two sets of cultural constructs, descent and property, is dialectical, with both deriving meaning from each other. There is, however nothing 'legal' about this. When people talk about land or territory, or cattle, they talk about ancestors, genealogies, blood, roots, ritual purity, their Sky–God, blessings and sacrifice, myth and history, fertility and survival or whatever, but they don't speak about any 'Law of property' or 'Law of inheritance', not even about 'rights'.

The high plateau of western Wollega consists of softly undulating hills. People live in scattered homesteads on the hill–tops, the houses being typically placed in a line along the ridge, 30 to 100 metres apart. Usually the men and unmarried women living on the same ridge are agnatically related. Married brothers live as close neighbours and all the men on a ridge trace descent from a common ancestor, while their wives, who moved there at marriage, do not belong to this descent category. The men on a number of adjacent ridges may likewise trace descent from a common ancestor, often the first pioneer who cleared the land about seven generations ago. The local descendants of such a first settler constitute an exogamous, patrilineal group with a defined territory. The people living on a single hill make up a segment of such a patrilineage.

The settlement pattern with its correspondence between genealogical and spatial separation is a representation of the local history and the shared historical identity of a group of men who share ccmmon descent. A person's identy and relation to other people is defined not only with reference to descent, but also to land. Talking about land is to the Macha a way of talking about kinship. Not only talking, but, more importantly, the very use of land may be seen as a statement of kinship.

The fact that a person lives in a house which is built on land associated with his father, and uses his father’s maasii, i.e. ancestral land, is in itself a statement of filiation and agnation.

The lineage territory is thus conceived of as the corporate property of a group of agnatically related men. These men also control the recruitment to the descent group, and access to its land.

The devolvment of ancestral land, maasii, is an act of social recognition, a passage rite creating filiation. It is a recognition of parenthood and thereby of the legitimacy of the child. A refusal by a man to give land to a son would amount to a denial of fatherhood. Accordingly, the fact of birth does not automatically confer kinship status; birth must also be socially recognized and the child made into a social person. For this, the handing over of ancestral land is instrumental. Male personal identity is defined both with reference to land and to genealogical connection. The gradual handing over of land can be seen as a ritual of filiation and as the ritual integration of persons into local descent groups. Land is instrumental for filiation, for making legitimate fathers and sons; descent is instrumental for property, for making legitimate 'fathers of land'. The relationship between the two sets of ideological constructs, descent and property is dialectical, with both deriving meaning from each other. This dense semantic environment suggests a conception of descent (and perhaps also of filiation and of male identity and personhood) as a composite of property notions and genealogical constructs. It was in this environment that first the imperial and later (in 1975) the "military-socialist" system of land tenure based on radically different notions of property was enforced.

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