A critical review of the political and stereotypical portrayals of the Oromo in the Ethiopian historiography
Title: A critical review of the political and stereotypical portrayals of the Oromo in the Ethiopian historiography
Author: Jeylan Wolyie Hussein (Haramaya University, Haramaya, Oromia)
Published: Nordic Journal of African Studies Vol. 15(3) 2006, pp. 256 – 276
Keywords: Oromo, portrayals, Ethiopia, identity
This paper attempts to make a critical review of the political and stereotypical portrayals of the Oromo in the Ethiopian historiography. For the theoretical and analytical purposes, the paper draws on the Marxist theory of representation. The fact that there is no one particular, unified and uniform portrayal of the Oromo is as important politically as why a portrayal is required. Even the Oromo academics have differences in this respect. While the majority of them express their pain about Oromo great antiquity thrown in as red herrings, some consider this as simple exclusivism and discursive premordialism whose value is less important in contemporary socio-political context of nation building. The European writers are also equally divided among themselves in their narratives about the Oromo. Some point out the effects of the long years of Amhara tight grip on Oromo national identity, while others emphasize the political side of citizenship, applauding the 19th century conquest of the Oromo as a resolute political fulfillment and in doing so legitimizing the continual suppression of ethnic rights. A critical look at the literature also suggests that each writer’s or a group of writers’ personal and political attitudes towards Oromo history, nationalism and ethnicity, which in turn is the result of each individual writer’s subjective and ideological orientations within the wider historical and cultural context, affects the way they portray the Oromo. The paper shows the tensions of settling the Ethiopian historiography. It seems that the force of those who are condemning years of injustice are stronger than that of those who like to maintain the hegemonic relationships. My conclusion is that a better solution to the current ethnic problems of the Oromo of Ethiopia lies in breaking with explicit as well as implicit traditions of socio-political denigrations of the cultural and political identity of the conquered ethnic groups. This calls for the re examination of the traditional historiography of Ethiopia, which seals the history of the country as a completed project.