SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Voices from "Broken Places" (Oromia/Ethiopa)


Date: 27 November 2019Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 27 November 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G51A

Type of Event: Round Table


Speaker: Prof Assefa Tefera Dibaba (Addis Ababa) 


In Oromo worldview, land and land resources are not just to be used but also to be revered and cared for. However, with the advent of both Christianity and Islam, land was removed from the primordial public realm of communal property and turned to the civic but politic realm of the state. Unplanned urbanization and industrialization, coupled with the religious factor, have also left the human and physical environment a desolate "broken place," which is an endangered sacred ecology (mountains and mountain ecosystems, well springs, trees, caves, and groves) currently threatened or abandoned. A "broken place" is an area (ecosystem/ambiance) of some significance but left in decline, in a state of degradation by reckless anthropogenic activities and/or by natural disasters. Available data and personal experience show that a "broken place" is characterized by forced evictions, development induced internal displacements, desecrated sacred sites, and an incompensable historical loss of traditions and values. Based on ethnoecological findings of the people's narrative constructs (songs and oral poetry, stories) and performances (festivals, rituals) of "sense of place" (rootedness, insidedness, and place identity/ attachment) which are obtained through interviews, observations, and personal experiences, this ongoing project aims to bring forward the localized voices and genuine concerns of the people who are living in and around the desecrated and "broken places" in Oromia (Finfinne and its adjacent localities). The reclamation of "broken places" is an ecopoetic act of social and ecological rescue out of the margins through a stewardship to regain control of, to recreate, and restore the place, and to provide a narrative of healing the historical and contemporary grief of loss.

Keywords: orature/narratives. Oromia. Finfinne. "broken place". local/marginal. "sense of place. ecopoetics/ethnoecology. sacred ecology.


Prof Assefa  Tefera Dibaba teaches in the in the Department of Oromo Folklore, Literature, and Language at Addis Ababa University. He obtained his PhD in Folklore and Anthropology from Indiana University with a thesis on Oromo oral literature and is the author of many articles on Oromo literature.

This event is part of the 'Multilingual locals, significant geographies: a new approach to world literature' project. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 670876)