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When Will we be People as Well? Social Identity and the Politics of Cultural Performance: The Case of the Waata Oromo of East and Northeast Africa

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This essay describes the struggle of an indigenous rights activist to obtain ethnic status and political representation for the Waata, former hunter-gatherers who belong to the Oromo-speaking people of East and Northeast Africa. It discusses how this leader is trying to positively redefine the label of 'caste' attributed to the Waata by scholars to explain the ambivalent position occupied by the group in traditional Oromo society. The essay examines how this social activist used a dance ritual which is performed annually by the Waata to commemorate their myth of origin as a way to gain political and moral legitimacy for his campaign. As Abner Cohen's studies suggest, there exists an intrinsic link between cultural performances and political processes in contexts of socio-economic change. The essay explores these interrelated themes of culture, politics and social change through the case of the Waata.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Durham

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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