Orality, power and Resistance: Reconstructing the Social History of Hararge Tenants, Ethiopia (1887-1975)

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Mohammed Hassen


Hararge was one of the regions where tenancy was predominantly practiced as a form of rural
production relation during 1887-1975.Since the hardship of tenancy was difficult to bear, tenants were
resisting the landlords and the state who sought to extract meager products from their labor, rent, food
and taxes in different ways. One of the mechanisms through which opposition against the system
articulated through oral poetry was ‘weapon of the weak’. This paper deals with the resistance of
Hararge peasants against the exploitative landlords by employing oral songs, sayings and proverbs in
the form of verse and prose. Taking oral poetry as a resistance weapon performed mainly in the form of
songs by Hararge tenants during social gatherings and cooperative works, this paper argues that
Hararge tenants have been constantly expressing their grudging and oppositions against their
landlords’ insatiable appetite for resources. The paper privileges tenants as historical actors having
their own power and oppositional culture and identity rather than mere victims of historical processes.
Data for this work is generated through an extensive interview conducted with Hararge peasants, most
of them are former tenants. These oral data are crosschecked and validated with available literature
collected from different libraries. It argues that topical and political songs with authorship being
associated with the mass are one arena through which the weak express their resistance and defiance to
the system.

Key Terms: Exploitation, landlord, oral poetry, power, resistance, tenant, weapon of the weak


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How to Cite
Hassen (PhD), M. (2024). Orality, power and Resistance: Reconstructing the Social History of Hararge Tenants, Ethiopia (1887-1975). Gadaa Journal, 7(1), 17-34. Retrieved from https://journals.ju.edu.et/index.php/gadaa/article/view/5230
Author Biography

Mohammed Hassen , Associate Professor of History, Haramaya University

Associate Professor of History, Haramaya University