Date of Award

12-14-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Mohammed Hassen Ali

Second Advisor

Ian Fletcher

Third Advisor

Allen Fromherz

Abstract

Language and religion are essential components of cultural identity. Cultural identity both reinforces and subverts the dominant paradigm. An alliance of Church and State in Ethiopia reinforced Abyssinian imperial political, economic, and military domination with linguistic, religious, and cultural hegemony. The Abyssinians are the Amhara and Tigrayan people, who speak related Semitic languages and follow Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. As the Abyssinians created the modern Ethiopian empire, they dominated the Ethiopian political landscape since the 1880s. Onesimos Nasib’s life serves as a case study, allowing this thesis to explore these themes of how culture can reinforce or undermine state authority. Enslaved as a child, Onesimos’ life reveals how cultural perceptions justified exploitation in the Abyssinian Empire. After his freedom and baptism into the Protestant Christian faith, Onesimos’ work as a missionary, translator, and teacher reveals how language, culture, and religion can help edify an exploited group while challenging the sources of that exploitation. This thesis emphasizes the significance of Oromo literature, education, and the adoption of Protestant Christianity in Wallaga region in Western Ethiopia during the early twentieth century as a means of preserving Oromo language, culture, and beliefs.

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