The enigma of Beta Esra'el ethnogenesis: an anthro-historical study

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The enigma of Beta Esra'el ethnogenesis: an anthro-historical study

Type: Article / Letter to editor
Title: The enigma of Beta Esra'el ethnogenesis: an anthro-historical study
Author: Abbink, G.J.
Journal Title: Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines
Issue: 120
Volume: 30
Start Page: 397
End Page: 449
Pages: 53
Publisher: cole des hautes ‚tudes en sciences sociales
Issue Date: 1990
Keywords: Ethiopia
ethnic groups
oral history
myths (form)
Abstract: This study is a contribution to the analysis of the interplay of myth, legend, history and identity of the Beta Esra'el or Falasha of Ethiopia from a historical-anthropological perspective. The focus is on the issue of their ethnogenesis, or origin history, and its mythical reflection in the ideological domain. All known variations or genres of the stories presented by the Beta Esra'el to a variety of travellers, researchers and other visitors are presented, in conjunction with the relevant historical knowledge available to date. The theoretical question guiding this effort is how one might arrive at some historically plausible conclusions on the basis of a critical reflection on mythical traditions. The starting point is that Beta Esra'el stories can only be seen in their proper perspective when related ideologically to the mythical tradition of the Amhara-Tigray, who were for a long time the two politically and culturally dominant groups in the region, especially during the time of the centralizing 'Solomonic' empire (c. 1270-1975). The kind of myths considered consist of a kind of 'sacred narratives', which the author calls 'mytho-legends'. The initial hypothesis is that the Amhara-Tigray mytho-legends and the Beta Esra'el mytho-legends on their own origin and religious tradition form part of one domain of discourse. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French (p. 539)

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