‘No one remains living in the past’: the dynamics of pottery technological styles in southwestern Ethiopia

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This article examines the pottery technological styles of the Oromo, the Yem and the Dawro ethnolinguistic groups in southwestern Ethiopia. It provides a comparative examination of the technological choices each group makes at different stages of pottery production, which, in turn, produce and reproduce their group identities. In southwestern Ethiopia, pottery-making lies within the domain of women, with social restrictions prohibiting male involvement. Potters are marginalised and transmit pottery-making knowledge and skills through learning networks, mainly between immediate family members. Each pottery-making community practises distinct technological traditions and styles, but all communities are now acquiring new technological skills in response to developing socio-economic dynamics. Examination of the incorporation of new elements into pottery-making due to both socio-economic changes at the local level and global phenomena may provide clues about the changing dynamics of the craft in the recent and more distant past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-139
Number of pages25
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 12 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Geographic Society under Grant W239-12 and Grant 9846-16 and by the University of Calgary Carter Fieldwork Grant. My deepest thanks go to Oromo potters in Wallaga and to Yem and Dawro potters in Jimma. I am genuinely grateful to them for sharing their experience with me without reservation and regardless of their busy schedules. I am also indebted to Desalegn Abebaw, Dajene Dandana and Kebede Gelata of ARCCH (Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage) for facilitating my fieldwork. I should also like to thank Hordofa Asana Seda, Abebe Dinega and Ayana Getahun. Many thanks also go to the anonymous reviewers of this paper for the constructive comments and suggestions that they offered me. I am also grateful to Jimma University, my then home institute, for its support during my fieldwork in summer 2012 and 2013. Many thanks also to the ARCCH, the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity, the Oromia Culture and Tourism Bureau, the West Wollega Zone Culture and Tourism Bureau and the Jimma Zone Culture and Tourism Bureau.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • chaîne opératoire
  • social identity
  • technological changes
  • technological style


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