family life
justice and crime
social institutions

culture and customs
food security
spiritual beliefs
traditional skills

introducing the area

social relationships

 quotes about social relationships
 key testimonies featuring social relationships

Economic change has been accompanied by changes in social relations, some apparently for the better and some not. The majority of narrators speak of closer relations between Christians (mostly living in the highlands) and Muslims (mostly in the lowlands), who now own land on an equal basis. In the highlands they can grow barley and in the lowlands beans, so there is a reciprocity between the two groups in order to access both food stuffs. There is also a gradual lessening of superstitious and hostile attitudes towards artisans of most kinds, and particularly blacksmiths, formerly believed to be "evil-eyed" and to eat people. Nevertheless, such attitudes have not been eradicated altogether and some of the artisans speak of the discrimination they still experience. Intermarriage between members of different groups is still generally frowned upon.

Almost all narrators speak with regret of the decline in hospitality and social welfare. In the past people took it in turn to look after the elderly and disabled, who stayed for between a few days and a month in one house and were then taken to another. Such arrangements would continue until they died, when the community or a rich individual would cover the cost of burial expenses. This practice has now ceased and families are no longer able even to support their own elderly or vulnerable relatives. According to one narrator (Ethiopia 19) there is some state provision in the towns of homes for "the blind and other disabled persons".

Several claim that tensions, and incidents of theft, have increased with the growing population and pressure on scarce resources. The main causes of conflict mentioned are the diversion of streams for irrigation, boundary disputes and livestock straying on to neighbours' land. "[When] livestock.stray into somebody's territory, quarrels erupt and people kill each other nowadays" (Ethiopia 3).

quotes about social relationships

"Our fathers used to take turns to feed, clothe and support those who were disabled or were old and without any relatives to help them.hence the childless and the disabled were not abandoned in their old age. Now. even those who have relatives have nobody to look after them."
Zewde, F/38, housewife, Ethiopia 4

"Muslims and Christians? Muslims were not [even] looked upon then. Now, however, they eat and drink and work together, and everything has been equalised... In the old days the Muslims did not have land, they had to till somebody's land on the basis of equal share. Now they have received land equally with the others. That is the change now."
Negussie, F/45, market trader, Ethiopia 2

"Christians and Muslims did not have a harmonious relationship in the past, but now they are like children from the same mother. They do not quarrel with each other now."
Melku, M/67, priest, Ethiopia 17

"When the wolf sees the antelope, it runs to eat it and the antelope flees to save its life. Nowadays people are like this, too. The highlanders have a low regard for the lowlanders and vice versa. They quarrel with each other."
Berhanu, M/70, farmer, Ethiopia 5

"The farmers and the artisans have close relationships; they invite each other for weddings, christenings and commemoration of saints' days. However, some people say that the blacksmiths eat other people, but I have never come across such a thing where I live and I don't believe the story."
Muliye, M/37, farmer, Ethiopia 15

"Blacksmiths? Well, we do our work and they do theirs. Of course, we look down on them; that is inevitable... It is a cultural prejudice. People say they eat other people (they are evil-eyed) and so we fear them."
Haji Zekiy, M/57, Qadi (Muslim religious leader and judge), Ethiopia 9

key testimonies featuring social relationships

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   10   Hamza   male/28   farmer   Gumar  
Summary Transcript   12   Mesele   male/55   farmer   Jirile (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   13   Mesay   male/28   farmer   Meqerretcha/Denkenna (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   14   Itiye   female/58   traditional midwife   Gebeya Meda (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   15   Muliye   male/37   farmer   (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   16   Mekonen   male/72   priest   Ganchire Gebriel  
Summary Transcript   17   Melku   male/67   priest   Guranboba Monastery (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   19   Yaregal   male/41   farmer trained in beekeeping   Warkaye  
Summary Transcript   2   Negussie   female/45   market trader   Filaqit, Woina Dega (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   21   Mario   male/40   farmer   Filaqit town (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   3   Lemlem   female/67   farmer/ nun   Woina Dega (midlands)  
Summary Transcript   4   Zewde   female/38   housewife   Highlands  
Summary Transcript   5   Berhanu   male/70   farmer   Flaqit (lowlands)  
Summary Transcript   6   Belay   male/18   student priest   Kurrisa (lowlands)  
Summary Transcript   7   Belay   male/41   blacksmith/farmer   Doba Giorgis (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   8   Yekaba   female/25   farmer/female head of household   Gala Dejen (highlands)  
Summary Transcript   9   Haji Zekiy   male/57   Qadi (Muslim religious leader)   Tcherqos village (highlands)