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Journal Article

Reading prayers as political texts: reflections on Irreecha ritual in Ethiopia


Debele,  Serawit Bekele
Socio-Cultural Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Debele, S. B. (2018). Reading prayers as political texts: reflections on Irreecha ritual in Ethiopia. Politics, Religion & Ideology, 19(3), 354-370. doi:10.1080/21567689.2018.1510393.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-E115-5
On the occasion of religious rituals which mobilise large number of participants, people get together to pray about their socio-political and economic circumstances and concerns. The main preoccupation of this article is analysing prayers said in such contexts. In the act of praying, it is argued that people appropriate religious vocabularies to convey messages in which structures of power and political actors are implicated. As such, focusing on the contents of collective prayers sheds light on our understanding of how subjects make sense of political processes that affect their everyday lives. As will be shown, what makes the linkage between prayers and political subjectivities more interesting is the political context that necessitates the emergence of prayers as sites of political pronouncement. In authoritarian landscapes where explicit political engagement of any sort is made close to impossible, religious rituals, festivals and similar processions serve as alternative sites. In these events, collective prayers constitute a significant part of mediating political thoughts and aspirations. By reading prayers generated from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Ethiopia, I will demonstrate that they are political texts deployed by religiously embodied political subjects.