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Educating Highlanders and Farenji: Mursi doing research for social justice in Southern Ethiopia 
Hannah Bennett (SOAS University of London)
Richard Axelby (SOAS University of London)
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Paper panel
Embedding justice in development
B204, 2nd floor Brunei Gallery
Friday 28 June, -
Time zone: Europe/London

Short Abstract:

Mursi encounters with outsiders have been mostly painful, and often violent. This panel is based on an ongoing innovative research project which provides small grants to members of the Mursi to conduct their own research. Consequently enabling them to educate 'highlanders and Farenji (foreigners)'.

Long Abstract:

The Mursi live in the Lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia close to the borders with South Sudan and Kenya. Mursi customary livelihoods – cattle herding and shifting cultivation – are being undermined by tourism, land-grabbing for sugar plantations and hydro-electric projects, along with state-led pacification and settlement schemes. Climate change further upsets the delicate ecology of the region. Seen as dangerous and backward by many visitors, from their perspective outsiders attack and even kill them, steal their land, damage their environment, and film them with disdain.

As part of our ongoing AHRC-funded project, 'Mursi: Encountering the Other', a coalition of Mursi, Ethiopian and UK scholars and filmmakers are attempting to challenge this disdain. In order to do so, we must learn with, rather than about, the Mursi. To this end, the project team have supported six Mursi committees to award small grants to members of the Mursi to conduct their own research. Consequently, enabling them to educate 'highlanders and Farenji (foreigners)' about their lives and to influence through music, films, and dialogue with policymakers, governments and the United Nations.

This panel will be comprised of members of the project team, who will not only summarise the research currently being undertaken, but also the process of awarding small grants. The panel will also include a preview of films produced by the South Omo Theatre Company. As such, the panel will see theory as ethics, and present a methodology for social justice and development in a polarising world.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 28 June, 2024, -