In the winter of 2008 I travelled to Awra Amba, a small community in rural Ethiopia that challenges the credibility of long standing norms by simply deploying the most effective instrument at its disposal. By consciously feminizing their communal interactions, the members have successfully taken the fang off the patriarchal power relations by freeing occupations from gender trappings of sexual division of labor. In Awra Amba women perform what tradition had proscribed as men’s task and men carry out what custom has defined women’s chores. Moreover, by accepting faith but not religion, the community steers clear of organized religions and their denominational rituals.
The experience enhanced my pedagogical tool in bringing to light the importance of reproduction in mitigating the excesses of production of power relations. It allowed me to apprehend the cultural/cognitive anti-power dimensions of reproduction and invalidate the well entrenched universal/particular false dichotomy of production. It was particularly relevant to my Foundation of Social Theory and Making of Modern Africa courses. Although the two courses are different from one another, there is nonetheless an underlying paradigm that applies to both. i.e., material (ecological and social) relations and processes, instead of being looked at in terms of economic production, are appreciated as contested grounds of reproduction.