Primary identities in the lower Omo valley: migration, cataclysm, conflict and amalgamation, 1750–1910

Marco Bassi, Marco Bassi

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Abstract

This article applies the notion of primary identity to explore the emergence of ethnic identities in the southern-most tract of the lower Omo valley. Currentidentities here are the result of two correlated patterns of movement that have occurred over the past 150 years: migration to the valley by organised pastoralists and scattered groups, and a general movement down the river and into the Omo delta, where the ecological niche generated by the regular flooding of the Omo River provided a rich variety of livelihood alternatives. The major migrations reported here were connected to great population movements that occurred in East Africa from the nineteenth century, often provoked by cataclysmic events: thus, Daasanach recall the occurrence of large floods, Nyangatom stress the destructive impact of the Ethiopian conquest, while Kwegu and Kara were hit by sleeping sickness epidemics. These cataclysms led to the disappearance of some of the primary groups whose existence and prosperity were recorded by earlier explorers, and to processes of assimilation. The historical reconstruction presented here shows that the notion of primary groups needs to be linked to an understanding of ‘‘clusters’’ of peoples, gathered in localities characterised by high interaction and co-presence of different primary groups. It will be argued that these ‘‘clusters’’ were the crucial nodes for the elaboration of culture and identity.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)129-157
Numero di pagine28
RivistaJournal of Eastern African Studies
Volume5
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2011

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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