Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
The reason that I travelled to Ethiopia was to undergo an investigation regarding “The challenges that reproduction, patriarchy and the dominant structure of knowledge have upon understanding the ‘Global South’”. The 3 weeks I spent in Ethiopia investigating this were eye-opening and challenging at the same time. Whilst I was in Ethiopia, I was most intrigued by the rural communities that we had visited and their sustainability through their daily practices as well as the role of women in Ethiopia’s patriarchal society.
In order to comprehend the sustainability of those Ethiopians living in rural areas, one must understand that there is a deep inconsistency in the conventional structure of knowledge. It claims to value-free science and value-laden humanities at the same time, thus there has been segregation in ‘science’ and ‘nature’. When analyzing the social world from the perspective of the peripheral “global south”, the problems with the social science categories becomes acute because they are constructed in terms of the perspectives of the West “developed” countries. Consequently, countries in the periphery cannot be understood through the segregated structures of knowledge because the economy, state, and society do not meet the basic benchmarks. Therefore the social world has to be re-conceptualized by affirming the interdependence of the three isolated domains. The dependence upon each other emphasizes the importance of reproductive perspective which demands a harmonious relationship between society and nature which was extremely evident in Ethiopia. On the contrary, the Western, perspective segregates nature from society to the extent that there is little relationship between people and their ecosystems from both an economic and sociological perspective. In Ethiopia however, individuals would not be able to survive without a particularly strong relationship between their society and nature. One specific example of this is in the Dorze community, where a lady produced a meal from the inside scrapings of a false Banana leaf, and cooked on the same leaf over a wooden fire. In order for the starch to ripen, the scraping from the banana leaf are stored in the ground for numerous weeks; wrapped in banana leaf as many of the rural communities do not have access to electricity, nor refrigerators (See image).
In Ethiopia, I explored this profoundly intimate relationship that the Ethiopians had with their environment. It is so complex and specific that no other society in the world should undermine their humanity, as is commonly portrayed through the media and through the conventional structure of knowledge of the ‘West’.
Once having established and understood the sustainability factor that Ethiopians have developed. I began to ask myself who was behind this process? It very quickly became apparent that women as agents of reproduction are the ones truly sustaining their communities as they live and feed their families off of the direct products of their natural environment. Despite how much they do, it is extremely unfortunate that women are thrown to the bottom of many hierarchies. In Ethiopia, it became evident that men were in the frontline, however the harder, more physical work was being done by the women. For Example, it was emphasized in Nazret, Ethiopia that it is a woman’s responsibility to pick the cotton, de-seed it, turn it into string and also dye the string Women’s work throughout this process is not acknowledged as it happens behind he scenes (see image). However it is the weaving done by men that is advertised using the cotton picked, de-seeded, turned into string and dyed; all stages done by women. The role of women in Ethiopia is more than just the behind-the-scene tasks, but it is women who reproduce the social-cultural standards of the community.
I found my research truly intriguing as I seriously challenged myself to think in ways I have never before. I cannot thank Ms. Feinstone and the CIIS office enough for this opportunity. Amesegënallô (In Amharic), “Thank you!”