Accepted paper:

Pedro Páez' ethnography of Northern Ethiopia: a pre-colonial missionary entanglement

Author:

Manuel Ramos (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

The present proposal wishes to understand the semantic, political and doctrinal conditions that underlie the production of a major work of the rich pre-colonial ethnographic body of knowledge produced in the Iberian Peninsula, by analysing the case of the Jesuit mission in Ethiopia.

Paper long abstract:

Pedro Páez, a Spanish missionary who lived in Ethiopia from 1603 to the date of his death in 1621, produced what is generally considered one of the most influential treaties on the history of that country, and of the Jesuits' presence there. He produced this work to revise the common vision of Ethiopia as the utopian land of the fabled king Prester John, and particularly to refute the book of a Dominican monk from Valencia, who's hidden intention was to contest the exclusivity of the Jesuits' mission in Ethiopia. Traveller in Arábia and Ethiopia, explorer of the Blue Nile, researcher of local customs, student of religious Ethiopian Orthodox texts, his ethnography of the country has laid the ground for the subsequent erudite tradition of Ethiopian Studies. But his work cannot be understood without considering his missionary and political action. His pivotal role in the conversion of the Orthodox king Susenyos to Western Catholicism his the ideological background from his scientific interests. The present proposal wishes to understand the semantic, political and doctrinal conditions that underlie the production of a major work of the rich pre-colonial ethnographic body of knowledge produced in the Iberian Peninsula, by analysing the case of the Jesuit mission in Ethiopia.

panel P221
New histories of anthropology: the hidden emotions of colonial ethnography