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Lecture by Diego Malara: Saints, Kin, Neighbors and Beggars: Conviviality, Vulnerability and the Ethics of Vicariousness in Addis Ababa

15.11.2022, 18.30 Uhr
Iwalewahaus and Zoom

Abstract

This talk is about the ethical and anthropological significance of doing things for others and on others’ behalf: a class of acts commonly referred to as intercession in religious contexts. Perceived as closer to God than fallen humanity, in Ethiopian Orthodox cosmology saints are often recruited as intercessors by ordinary Christians who seek to obtain divine favour and protection. However, such Christians often necessitate the help of individuals who are either more pious or closer to the saint (typically kin or beggars) in order to solicit saintly intercession. In tracking the complex circulation of gifts and grace in different types of vows and hospitality, this paper aims to unveil the intricate tapestry of mediated socio-spiritual relations that bind together kin, neighbours, and saints to sustain their mutually imbricated lives in a time of hardship and disorienting change. Following these long chains of meditation to their loose ends in busy households and neighbourhoods, I suggest, is essential to understanding how people imagine and seek to transform intimate ties of dependency and relations with power, both temporal and divine. I conclude by arguing that apophatic reasoning undergirds the ways in which intimacy and asymmetry are deployed as key analytics in engaging with the vulnerabilities, sinfulness and violence characteristic of urban ‘modernity’ (zemenawinet).

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