Segregating the Living and the Dead The Case of the Dawro in Ethiopia

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Mesfin Desta Kute
Jira Mekonnen Choroke
Dejene Gemechu Chala


This article deals with social segregation among the Dawro in southern Ethiopia with a special focus on the Degellaa (tanners). The Dawro has five major hierarchical social categories, namely: the Maallaa (higher stratum), the Wogac-c-iya (blacksmith), the Degellaa (tanners), the Manaa (potters), and the Manja (hunter-gatherers). The Dege.llaa are segregated in their interactions with the dominant group as well as the remaining minority groups of the society. The article aims to discuss the nature of this social segregation and its changes across time in the Dawro. Primary data were collected from the field via observation, FGDs, interviews, and case studies. The data were transcribed and translated and were thematically classified before the final write-up. The findings show that the Degellaa are segregated from access to land, social networking, local and religious institutions, burial sites, marriage relations, and sharing food and drink, among others. The Maallaa consider the Degellaa a pollutant and ritually-impure. There is a hereditary principle of specialization, rigid hierarchy, and repulsion in society. In terms of theoretical debate, the social stratification and the consequent social exclusion among the Dawro are exceptionally similar to the caste system. Finally, it is recommended that policymakers design a policy framework to end social segregation. Both enabling policy frameworks and social, political, and economic transformations are important to end such solidified social segregation.

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How to Cite
Desta , M., Mekonnen , J., & Gemechu , D. (2023). Segregating the Living and the Dead. The Ethiopian Journal of Social Sciences and Language Studies (EJSSLS), 8(2), 23-38. Retrieved from

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