Translated by Dominique Lussier
December 2012, paperback, 270 pp.
Studies in the African Rift Valley
Publication of this title was supported by THE CHRISTENSEN FUND
In Placing Politics (published originally as Le lieu du politique in
1983), Marc Abélès sets out to study the political practices of the
Ochollo from the Gamo highlands of south-west Ethiopia. In doing
so he demonstrates that the Ochollo constitute a “democratic” model
of organisation where the population is self-administrered by means of
frequent assemblies. Within this model there is a strong hierarchical
order of sacrificers and dignitaries where complex, sometimes strained,
relations unify the different institutional actors and rituals of this system.
For the Ochollo, as for many other stateless societies, the powers are
omnipresent and politics always diffuse.
In analysing the concrete situation of a contemporary Ethiopian society,
this book gives rise to a reflection on a more general problem: that of the
nature and conditions of the exercise of politics in acephalous societies..
Chapter One:The Social Organization of Space
A Democracy and Its Actors
Expense and Ostentation: The Inauguration of the Dignitaries
Exchanges and Redistribution: The Stakes of the Feasts
Beliefs and Immolation Rites
The Sacrificers: Lands and Powers
About the Author
Marc Abélès first worked on this study under the supervision of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Based on his work among the Ochollo, his subsequent research has been devoted to political life and institutions in France and Europe. He ran the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Institutions et des Organisations Sociales (LAIOS) since its creation with other colleagues in 1995 and was elected Directeur d’Etudes at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in 2005. He is currently a director of the
Centro Franco-Argentino de Altos Estudios, Universidad de Buenos Aires.