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Society unhealed (completed)

Leprosy and Identity in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia.

Illustration: Mesele Terecha Kebede

About the project

An age-old prevalence, mysterious pathology and dreadful medical impacts undoubtedly offered leprosy a prolonged power of shaping identities in the Ethiopian society where the disease led to the evolution of two geographically and conceptually distinct social categories:

  • The Hamina Song-mendicant groups with their hereditary features who dominantly inhabit the north-central parts of the country
  • Different leprous communities in the southern and south-eastern parts with the contagious associations of the disease


Primarily, this project plans to identify, examine and situate the changing identity of leprosy-sufferers and the Hamina song-mendicant group of people within the larger socio-economic, cultural, political and medical contexts of the Ethiopian society during the twentieth-century.


 The project is based at the Section for Medical Anthropology and Medical History and pursued in cooperation with the Section for International Community Health. The methodology is historical.


The Ph.D. project is financed through UiO’s Quota program

Start - Finish

The project has commenced 1.1.2011 and is supposed to run until 31.12.2013.


Mesele Terecha Kebede. Leprosy, Leprosaria and Society in Ethiopia: A Historical Study of Selected Sites, 1901-2001 (Addis Ababa: The Armauer Hansen Research Institute, 2005); and
Mesele Terecha Kebede. "Origins and Transformation of the Hamina Song-Mendicant Tradition," African Study Monographs, Suppl. 41 (March 2010), pp.63-79.
Published Apr. 5, 2011 5:19 PM - Last modified July 16, 2014 9:54 AM