Nilo-Ethiopian Studies No.2 (1994)
An interpretation is offered of two contrasting Nilotic customs relating to the
stomach of a king who has just died: the cutting of the stomach of a king who has been killed by his subjects for causing drought and the practice of some Bari speaking peoples of allowing the stomach of the king, who has died a natural death, to bloat and burst. The case material on the cutting of the stomach is taken from nineteenth century accounts by travellers and a missionary concerning two cases of regicide among the Bari and from the study of the murder of the Pari queen in 1984 by the anthropologist
In a first round of interpretation it is argued that the relevant property of the
stomach in this context, as well as in other Nilotic sacrificial ritual, is its capacity to turn a mass of undifferentiated substance into something valued and desirable. In a second round we demonstrate that the stomach-metaphor is used to make sense of the socio-political impact of the king on the conflicts in his realm and, closely interwined with that, of his cosmic impact on the weather. To understand why the king’s metabolism plays such an important role at the moment of his death we turn to the theory of the victimary origins of kingship developed by Rene Girard. Since the death of the king is a powerful lever for achieving social unity and cosmic harmony, his people should leave nothing to chance when he dies, especially with regards to the organ most closely associated with his powers to dissolve conflicts and bring peace and rain .
Key words: sacred kingship, body symbolism, victimization, Bari, Pari, Nilotes.
- Democracy in the Desert? The Bedouin in the Western Desert and the National Election to the People’s Assembly in 1990, Egypt
In 1990 the electorate of the governorate of Mars a Matrouh in the Western Desert of Egypt chose four members of the ruling National Democratic Party as their representatives for the People’s Assembly. However, the Bedouin forming the majority of the population explained that these were Bedouin representatives, nominated in the meetings of the tribal chiefs based on the consideration of fairness among the tribal groups in the district. This paper analyses the process of selecting candidates for the national election and its public acceptance. In particular, unusual appearance of strong rival candidates among the Bedouin in 1990 revealed the difference between rhetoric and political reality, given that every candidate claimed to have obtained the unanimous agreement of all the Bedouin before the election and even before the tribal meetings . The institutionalized setting of the national election and the strategic enterprises of the main actors including the candidates are all related to the discourse of “Bedouin democracy” which they advocate as being traditional and legitimate. The political process also serves to strengthen the distinctive social identity of the contemporary
Bedouin, as symbolized in the TV images of the representatives appearing in the assembly hall in their traditional Bedouin robes.
Key words: Bedouin, election, nation state, tradition, tribe.
Traditional agricultural societies have developed a tremendous number of plant varieties from the relatively few plant species that have undergone domestication . Botanists have investigated the diversity of indigenous varieties for the purpose of preserving genetic resources, but there have been relatively few anthropological investigations of how traditional knowledge systems create or maintain plant varieties.
In this paper, I describe indigenous method of sorghum cultivation and variety selection in an agro-pastoral society of southwest Ethiopia, and show that indigenous knowledge and cultivation strategy play important roles in diversification process of local varieties. I introduce the Arbore society and their agriculture . Then I discuss diversification mechanisms and the people’s knowledge system about indigenous varieties of sorghum. Finally I relate social and environmental factors to the introduction and loss of sorghum varieties.
Key words: Ethiopia, Arbore, sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L .) Moench, indigenous variety.