Accepted Paper:

Contemporary living in very old places: stability, instability and Orthodox Christian historical subjectivity in Zege, Ethiopia  
Thomas Boylston (University of Edinburgh)

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers Orthodox Christian religious historicity in the Zege Peninsula, Ethiopia. While informants often downplayed recent historical events, they continuously emphasised the 13th century hagiographic history of the peninsula and the founding of its seven monasteries. Strategies of silence concerning recent political history may be pragmatic ways to avoid painful or controversial memories. However, I argue that the foregrounding of local religious history is a living, dynamic phenomenon that enables people to construct themselves as insulated, to a degree, from uncertainties and traumas of Ethiopia's recent past. The monasteries retain profound contemporary relevance in Zege through their continued ritual activity, their centrality as destinations of pilgrimage and tourism, and their vast influence on local ecology. The lived history imbued in the monasteries offers Zege Christians means of self-understanding, and projections of future stability, that more contingent and apparently 'contemporary' political histories cannot provide.

Panel W002
Wounding, meaning, being: managing experience, knowledge and time in contemporary religiosity