Ethiopia: Ethiopia’s Peoples

Posted: February 22, 2008 in History
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Ethiopia’s Peoples

A simple ethnic classification of Ethiopia’s population is not feasible. People categorized on the basis of one criterion, such as language, may be divided on the basis of another. Moreover, ethnicity–a people’s insistence that it is distinctive and its behavior on the basis of that insistence–is a subjective response to both historical experience and current situations. A group thus distinguished may not be the same as that established on the basis of objective criteria.

Historically, entities defining themselves in ethnic terms reacted or adapted to Amhara domination in various ways. Affecting their adaptation was the degree of Amhara domination–in some areas Amhara were present in force, while in others they established a minimal administrative presence–and the extent of ethnic mixing. In some areas, historical differences and external conditions led to disaffection and attempts at secession, as in multiethnic Eritrea and in the Ogaden. In others, individuals adapted to the Amhara. Often they understood the change not so much as a process of becoming Amhara as one of taking on an Ethiopian (and urban) identity.

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