Accepted Paper:

The Gaboye of Somaliland: institutional marginality and pathways of emancipation  


Elia Vitturini (University of Milano-Bicocca)

Paper short abstract:

Marriage and professional segregation, together with ideological supports describing a degraded human condition, led scholars of the Somali territories to label the Gaboye of Somaliland as "occupational caste". The paper analyzes their institutional marginality and their pathways of emancipation.

Paper long abstract:

The debate about occupational castes in Africa is open. Some scholars have used this analytical category to conceptualize forms of stratification in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia and other countries as well. Some others have criticized it. Alula Pankhurst, for instance, has contested to the criteria associated with caste in India the capacity to represent the spatial and temporal dynamism that marginalization shows in Africa, or at least in the south-western Ethiopian groups he studied. The casted groups of Somali territories have been often reported but never thoroughly investigated. By drawing on a fieldwork carried out between 2014 and 2015 in the capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa, this paper illustrates the social and political trajectory of emancipation of the Gaboye, a recent denomination that brings together an ensemble of groups colonial scholars like Enrico Cerulli described in terms of caste. To counter their marginality in the overall social and political frame of Somaliland society, the Gaboye have taken a series of initiatives, starting with the 1950s successful attempt to enter into the blood-compensation exchanges with the other Somali genealogical groups, from which they were formerly excluded.

Suspending the verdict over the appropriateness of the category of caste in the study of Somali territories but not its analytical fertility, this paper offers historical and ethnographic material on the Gaboye's legacies of marginality that are significant in the comparative frame of the panel.

Panel P033
Towards a transnational anthropology of power: legacies and linkages of caste, race, and gender