Falasha - Sociopolitical Organization

The majority of Falasha belong to the peasant class (the bottom of the Ethiopian social ladder), but some are teachers, medical dressers, or government workers. In Israel, the Falasha, in accordance with their level of education and vocational training, have become part of the working class and a minority in the middle class.

Political Organization. In the Middle Ages, the Falasha were probably organized in fairly autonomous chiefdoms. In the early seventeenth century they lost all local political autonomy and became subordinate to the authority of emperor and landlords. Community affairs, disputes, and petty crime were handled by their village elders and priests. Formerly, they had local village representatives to the imperial authorities, but in the twentieth century this representation has been lost. After 1974, the Falasha were, like other rural Ethiopians, subject to—and part of—the peasant-association structures.

Social Control. In the small-scale village society of the Falasha, family honor, the normative authority of elders, and ethnoreligious-group traditions were the basis of social control. The Falasha were usually reluctant to submit cases of offense to non-Falasha courts. In postrevolutionary conditions, more appeals were made to the courts of the peasant associations and those of the awraja (province).

Conflict. Since the emergence of the Falasha/Beta Esráel on the historical scene in the fourteenth century, their relations with the dominant Amhara-Tigray have been tense and full of violent conflicts. Even when there were long periods of peace, cooperation, and incorporation of the Falasha into Amhara society, there remained a latent tension (religious difference, the evil-eye syndrome, social-status difference; Abbink 1987). Conflicts arising from Falasha being accused of possessing the evil eye continue to occur.

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