An indigenous time-related framework for reconstructing the impact of disasters on ancient water systems in southern Ethiopia, 1560–1950

Tiki, Waktole; Gufu Oba, Peter & Tvedt, Terje (2013). An indigenous time-related framework for reconstructing the impact of disasters on ancient water systems in southern Ethiopia, 1560–1950 . Journal of Historical Geography.

Abstract

This article uses an indigenous time-related framework to reconstruct the impact of disasters associated with floods, epidemics, droughts and famine on the ancient tula well systems in southern Ethiopia. We interviewed oral historians, who used the gada timeline to reconstruct the impact of disasters in the tula region from about 1560 to 1950. The Borana gada timeline is based on a system of social organization and transfer of power (each gada lasts for eight years) between five patri-classes called gogessa by the community. The Borana are able to recall events corresponding to a 40-year cycle (i.e. 5 × 8) when the same gogessa returns to power. With the return to power by each gogessa, grouped into seven naming clusters called maqabas, each gogessa experiences event-repetition or dhaaccii, which served as a repository of social memory. The time chronology in gada context and its social structure (gogessa), cyclical names (maqabas), and event-repetition (dhaaccii) are all connected in a complex historical narrative to reconstruct environmental events. To corroborate the oral history of the impact of disasters on tula wells, we used regional climatic information as proxy data. The findings showed that the gada timeline and its maqabas and event-repetition of dhaaccii correlated with the collapse of the wells, and with pastoral economy and human demographics. The gada timeline and its historical memory closely reflected climatic proxy data in terms of regional level disaster events.

About methodological nationalism and the communicative situation. Critique and an alternative

Abstract

About methodological nationalism and the communicative situation. Critique and an alternative

Historisk Tidsskrift 04/2012 (p 490-510)
While historians were central in interpreting the national breakthrough in Norway in the late 19th century, and in creating the national story about the working class’s entry within the centre of the state system in the first half of the 20th century, the dominant practice of Norwegian history has largely been marginal and shown little interest in interpreting the third great wave in Norwegian modern history; namely the impact of what can be called the «international breakthrough» and the globalization process on Norway’s development over recent decades. How this historiographic situation is understood and explained will affect the ability of the Norwegian historical community for self-reflection, and the theoretical, methodological and conceptual choices historians will make. The article discusses the fruitfulness of the term «methodological nationalism», which the Norwegian Research Council through its evaluation of Norwegian historical research has launched to raise awareness of this situation. It shows that the concept is not fruitful – for theoretical, empirical and conceptual reasons – if the goal is a balanced reflection of the development of historical studies and of methodological conventions and opportunities. The article promotes a different, less politicized, historiographic interpretation and discusses another term and an alternative method that might help historians explore the development of societies in new and more fruitful ways, including the nation’s development.

Keywords: communicative situation, globalization, historiography, methodological nationalism.

 

Hydrology and Empire. The Nile and the partition of Africa

2011: Hydrology and Empire. The Nile and the partition of Africa, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 39, 2: 173-193.

Abstract

Why did the British march up the Nile in the 1890s? The answers to this crucial question of imperial historiography have direct relevance for narratives and theories about imperialism, in general, and the partition of Africa in the nineteenth century, in particular. They will also influence our understanding of some of the main issues in the modern history of the whole region, including state developments and resource utilisation.

This article presents an alternative to dominant interpretations of the partition of Africa and the role of British Nile policies in this context. It differs from mainstream diplomatic history, which dominates this research field, in its emphasis on how geographical factors and the hydrological characteristics of the Nile influenced and framed British thinking and actions in the region.
Realising the importance of such factors and the specific character of the regional water system does not imply less attention to traditional diplomatic correspondence or to the role of individual imperial entrepreneurs. The strength of this analytical approach theoretically is that it makes it possible to locate the intentions and acts of historical subjects within specific geographical contexts. Empirically, it opens up a whole new set of source material, embedding the reconstruction of the British Nile discourse in a world of Nile plans, water works and hydrological discourses.

Water wars and water cooperation. An empirical critique of dominant schools of thought regarding water and geopolitics

2010: Water wars and water cooperation. An empirical critique of dominant schools of thought regarding water and geopolitics, in Terje Tvedt, Graham Chapman and Roar Hagen, (eds), History of Water Series II, Volume 3: Water and Geopolitics in the New World Order, IB Tauris, New York/London, 78-111.

Human Stewardship or Ruining Cultural Landscapes of the Ancient Tuba Wells, Southern Ethiopia

2010: Waktole, Tiki, Gufu, Oba, Tvedt, Terje: Human Stewardship or Ruining Cultural Landscapes of the Ancient Tuba Wells, Southern Ethiopia, Geographical Journal

This article uses the concepts of “human stewardship” and “ruined landscape” as a theoretical framework for analysing the community’s perception of landscape change in the ancient tula well system of Borana in southern Ethiopia. The ancient tula well system, the main permanent water source, has been in operation for more than five centuries and it closely links human activity and the environment. The welfare of the tula well system and the performance of the Borana pastoral system are directly related. Borana management of the tula wells uses concepts such as laaf aadaa seeraa and laaf bade to differentiate between ‘land managed by customary laws’ (hereafter human stewardship) and ‘lost’ or ‘ruined’ land (laaf bade). The cultural landscapes of the ancient wells have undergone changes from ecosystems featuring ‘human stewardship’ (before the 1960s), that is, laaf aadaa seeraa to ‘ruined landscapes’ (after the 1960s), that is, laaf bade. Our interest is in understanding how the Borana perceive the impact of land use changes from these two conceptual perspectives. In group discussions, key informant interviews and household surveys across five of the nine well clusters, we found that the society described the changed tula cultural landscape in terms of drivers of well dynamics (i.e. use and disuse), break up of land use zonations, patterns of human settlement (traditional versus peri-urban), expansion of crop cultivation, and changes in environmental quality. Using the two concepts, we analysed linkages between changing patterns of land use that transformed the system from laaf aadaa seeraa, which ensured human stewardship, to laaf bade, which resulted in ruined landscapes. From these we analysed environmental narratives that showed how the society differentiated the past human stewardship that ensured sustainable landscape management from the present ruining of tula well cultural landscapes.