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Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Günther Schlee 2008


This is "a diary in the strict sense of the term", to quote a famous title (Malinowski 1967). Revelations of complicated emotions, however, are not to be expected. People have such emotions to different degrees, attribute more or less importance to them, and have a greater or lesser desire to write about them. On all three counts, my score is rather low.

It is a diary in the strict sense of the term in at least two senses. It was kept more or less on a daily basis, and has not been altered significantly to create consistency from a post-hoc perspective. It includes field notes which were primarily addressed to myself and which were to serve as a point of departure for later elaboration. I report, however, not only about my own work but also about the work of the researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale (Germany), whom I visited in the field. For all of these reasons, these notes may be of interest to the group of researchers working on Ethiopia at our institute and perhaps also to other Africanists.

Beyond those already mentioned, others may also want to read this diary. I am not aware of disclosing any secrets in it. Some names have been changed to protect their bearers. But members of this wider circle of readers, if indeed this text should reach them through some channel, should be warned that it has not been edited for them. I have not even bothered to write in a single language. I use both German and English and have only taken care not to switch from one to the other in the middle of a paragraph. Both languages have their advantages. German is better for thinking; English is better for being understood. Apart from these two languages, a number of others appear in quotations, which I have not bothered to translate.

Also, not much background information has been provided. These are bare notes[1]. Colleagues from our institute can walk across the corridor to ask what I am writing about and what its wider context is, but outsiders may be at a loss. The latter can, of course, contact me per e-mail:


Map 1: Overview of three Ethiopian trips between 2001 and 2002



1) These notes have been published online since 2008. Due to the use of a new software, some minor adjustments were made to the text in 2013. Apart from these adjustments, the current version of the text remains identical with that accessible on this website between early June 2008 and early  May 2013.