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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The 'Galla' that never was: its origin and reformulation in a hinterland of comparative disadvantage
Author:Ayana, DanielISNI
Year:2010
Periodical:The journal of Oromo studies
Volume:17
Issue:1
Pages:1-40
Language:English
Geographic term:Northeast Africa
Subjects:ethnological names
Oromo
ethnic identity
stereotypes
social history
Abstract:Combining intellectual and environmental history, the author traces the origin of the word 'galla' to Somali history and culture. By the thirteenth century the word had spread among the Somali who had embraced Islam. For those early converts, and subsequently, the name provided a cohesive group consciousness to promote an existential interest: competition over water, pasture and land in the harsh environment of the Horn of Africa. Once the Islamized Somali used the term against non-Somali Muslims, both Christian and Muslim traders spread the word to the interior of the Horn. In the interior of the Horn of Africa, the term 'galla', as a loan word, initially meant one who is neither a Christian nor a Muslim, especially in the mediaeval Abyssinian Empire. However, Abba Bahrey, the Ethiopian monk who wrote on the Oromo population movement of the sixteenth century, portrayed the 'Galla' as a subhuman species and deployed the term to mobilize Abyssinians against the Oromo. His 'History' depicted the Oromo as immigrants erupting into the lands belonging to Christian kings. His writing also established a guideline for many Europeans to replicate these prejudiced views that are detrimental to the Oromo. Bahrey claimed the famous mediaeval Arab historian al-Makin as his model, but in depicting the Galla that never was out of the pre-sixteenth-century Oromo he deviated significantly from al-Makin's standard of objectivity in writing history. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]
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