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Journal for the Study of Religion

versión On-line ISSN 2413-3027
versión impresa ISSN 1011-7601


ZELEKE, Meron. 'We are the same but different': Accounts of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian adherents of Islamic Sufi saints. J. Study Relig. [online]. 2014, vol.27, n.2, pp.195-213. ISSN 2413-3027.

Construction of ethnic and religious identity is often described in academic works as being closely linked to the notion of othering (Jensen 2011). Lister (2004:102) notes on the signification of othering in identity formation mentioning, '... othering helps to define the self and to affirm identity'. Jensen (2009) in a similar manner describes that the notion is a quintessential one for understanding the power structures as well as the historic symbolic meanings of conditioning identity formation with variation in agency of different actors. In the political environment of post-1991 Ethiopia where ethnic federalism has made ethnicity the main organizing principle in forming, framing, and contesting different identity and resource claims in the country, the growing ethno-religious tensions in different parts of the country are often described as disputes arising from differences (Asnake 2013). Differences in religious ideologies, in political opinions, clash of interest in claims of political entitlements, in rights questions and more factors are identified as being the catalyst for inter-religious and inter group disputes in the country (IPSS 2012). On the other hand, faith institutions in some parts of Ethiopia are hosting people across ethnic and religious boundaries, a practice that at least contradicts to the dominant thesis of the escalation of social bordering and conflictual relations in the country. Examining the gap between local realities and macro level representation by political actors and scholars is beyond the scope of this article. The article rather explores and explains the social construction of religious boundary in contemporary Ethiopia by addressing how religious otherness is claimed or constructed at the local level. The article presents the emic accounts on defining and redefining religious boundaries and analyzing the local perceptions and definitions of what a religious boundary is and what crossing the boundary entails.

Palabras clave : Ethiopia; orthodox Christianity; Sufism; Religious boundary.

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