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Memory and Oblivion in the History of Gonǧ Monastery (1670 - 1750): The Paradoxes of Qǝbat Historiography

Abstract : At the end of the 17th century, the history of Gonǧ monastery, in Goǧǧam, was complex and traumatic because its abbot, Ṭäbdän Dǝngǝl, head of the qǝbat movement during Yoḥannǝs’ reign (1667-82), entered in rebellion against King Iyasu (1682-1706), who favored the Däbrä Libanos monastic network and declared qǝbat a heresy. The civil war lasted until Ṭäbdän and his followers were excommunicated and banished, in 1687. Nonetheless, a few decades later, Gonǧ was richly endowed by the royal power and its violent and rebellious past seemed forgotten. How did a rebellious institution come back to the foreground of the political and religious scene a few decades later? What had to be altered or forgotten in this violent history? How did written documents, oral history and iconographic sources, not to forget rites and the landscape, enter into this re-imagining of the past? The memory has been lost of Ṭäbdän Dǝngǝl, the abbot of Gonǧ who sowed dissension within the qǝbat movement, opposed his own monks and led an up-rising against the king. New narratives, such as a dying bishop travelling miraculously to Gonǧ and the ‘late’ invention of a neutral founding father, help in attracting the faithful and pilgrims, and recalling the institution’s long history and close relations with major political and religious authorities. In this case study, oral history forges stories and portrays characters in ways that obstruct the exposal of the ‘historical truth’.
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Anaïs Wion. Memory and Oblivion in the History of Gonǧ Monastery (1670 - 1750): The Paradoxes of Qǝbat Historiography. Dirk Bustorf; Sophia Dege-Müller; Alexander Meckelburg. Oral Traditions in Ethiopian Studies, 7, Harrassowitz, pp.43-63, 2018, Supplement to Aethiopica. International Journal of Ethiopian and Eritrean Studies, 978-3-447-11054-9. ⟨halshs-01525077⟩

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