Vol 28 No 1 (2019): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

The Advent of “modern state” in Ethiopia and the dynamics of personal names and naming practices among the Gofa of Southwest Ethiopia

Yetebarek Hizekeal Zekareas
Dilla University
Published June 15, 2019
  • Gofa,
  • Ethiopia,
  • modern state,
  • personal naming practice,
  • Amhara


This article analyzes how the “modern state” in Ethiopia has played crucial roles in the dynamics of personal names and naming practices of the Gofa people through its ideology, institutions, and strategies of standardizing linguistic and personal naming practices. The double roles of the state, both as a fortification and change agent, are analyzed by categorizing the Ethiopian state into two periods: the imperial state (1890’s to 1974) and post-imperial state (1974 to present). Based on empirical data, I argue on one hand that the imperial state, through its persistence effort and perceived opportunities, significantly succeeded in converting the indigenous Gofa names and patterns to the state (Amhara) nomenclature. On the other hand, the post-imperial state policies have shown significant signs of restoring indigenous cultures but could not fully materialize the policies and their discourses due to the involvement of multiple actors that complicate the restoration process.


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