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The Revolution Starts with Giving up Sons: A Futureless Future and Emulating the Chinese Revolution in Africa

Young Su Park
Date and Time: 
Monday, April 9, 2018 - 12:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


From 1974 to 1991, the Derg, an Ethiopian socialist regime, envisioned itself as actualizing the Cultural Revolution in Ethiopia by undertaking a down-to-countryside movement, zemecha, and forced villagization.  This aggressive campaign brought a revolution in time by enforcing the timetable of compulsory ideology education and communal labor.  These movements laid the grounds for the penetration of a socialist regime into rural Ethiopia and its subsequent forced conscription.  The “Chinese Revolution” in Ethiopia betrayed initial expectations of ethnic liberation and land reform and brought irretrievable catastrophe to the landscape and social lives of the Oromo in Arsi, including deforestation and forced resettlement.  Land reform and forced villagization fundamentally transformed the spatial configuration and the rhythms of the daily social lives of the Oromo.

The drive and anticipation towards a socialist modernity displaced the traditional notion of time within family life cycles of the Oromo.  The disappearance of males by forced recruitment to the socialist army disrupted the Oromo’s preference for sons and the sex ratio of a generation.  To aovid mandatory conscription, they had to hide their sons, sent them to distant areas and raised them as daughters to save their lives.  Despite the deep- rooted gender inequality and patriarchal kinship system of the Oromo during these times, the Oromo preferred daughters instead of sons.  The temporality of revolution is experienced, what Koselleck (2004) describes, as a “futureless future.”  The inhumane tempo of the socialist revolution was engraved in the geographies, bodies and minds of the Oromo.