• Vita

    Andrea Nicolas is a social anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher. She received her PhD from Free University Berlin. She has worked at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle and, in the realm of the International MaxNetAging Programme, for the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, and has also been affiliated to the Graduate School of “Cultural Encounters and the Discourses of Scholarship” at the University of Rostock. In recent years, she has carried out extensive fieldwork in Northeast Africa, among the Oromo and Amhara groups of Ethiopia. Her research interests include legal pluralism, mediation and conflict resolution, along with issues of comparative research and research methodology. She is the author of the book From Process to Procedure: Elders’ mediation and formality in Central Ethiopia (Wiesbaden 2011), and co-editor of the volumes Growing up, Growing old: Trajectories of Time and Lives (Oxford 2013, with Ian Flaherty) and Travel, Agency, and the Circulation of Knowledge (Münster 2017, with Gesa Mackenthun and Stephanie Wodianka).

  • Research Project

    Law-making, and the new democracies: Legal ‘translatio’ in African (Oromo) (neo-)traditional legislative and juridical procedures

    The research project shall examine most recent changes in the juridical structure of Ethiopia and explore their relevance for legal theory-making. The judicial, legislative and governmental organisation of the Oromo ethnic group, called gadaa, provides a concrete illustration and paradigmatic example for institutional transfer and normative innovation.

    Through the contact with state agents, non-governmental organisations and new media, the traditional model of gadaa political and legal organisation became subject to a process of bureaucratisation. The new ethno-regional government of the Federal State of Oromiya had decided to support the traditional law of the Oromo at the expense of other legal traditions in the area. By now, new, innovative interpretations of the old Oromo seera laws shall help to connect the Oromo judicial system with western models of universal human rights.

    This has profound impacts for the study of standardisation processes in legal pluralist settings. The project shall explore the emergence of new forms and principles of legal practice that arise from the confrontation of different cultural practices and transregional contact and exchange. How are transfers and ‘translations’ put into practice in the legal sphere? How are law-making and legal transformation realised in and between different legal cultures? How does this affect processes of authorisation and standardisation? As a result of the research, the outline of a new theoretical model of judicial transfer and legal ‘translatio’ shall be contributed to the study of legal unity and pluralism.

  • Selected Publications

    Nicolas, Andrea, In Search of Democracy: Gadaa as a Political Ideal, or the Legitimacy of Traditional Authority in Times of Turmoil and Unease, in: Klocke-Daffa, Sabine/Steinforth, Arne (Eds.), Challenging Authorities: Ethnographies of Legitimacy and Power in Eastern and Southern Africa, Basingstoke/London/New York 2021, 147-184.

    Nicolas, Andrea, A Matter of Perspective: Of Transfers, Switchings, and Cross-cutting Legal Procedures, in: Epple, Susanne/Assefa, Getachew (Eds.), Legal Pluralism in Contemporary Ethiopia, Bielefeld 2020, 283-307.

    Nicolas, Andrea, What is mediation? Definitions and anthropological discomforts, in: Härter, Karl/Hillemanns, Carolin/Schlee, Günther (Eds.), On Mediation. Historical, Legal, Anthropological and International Perspectives, Oxford/New York 2020, 69-94.

    Nicolas, Andrea, Heiligkeit und Respekt – Ist das Gesetz eine Form von Religion? Oder ist Religion Gesetz?, in: Uhlig, Mirko/Conte, Dominique (Eds.), Recht gläubig? Kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf das Verhältnis von Religion und rechtlicher Normierung im Alltag, Münster 2020, 19-36.

    Nicolas, Andrea, From Process to Procedure: Elders’ Mediation and Formality in Central Ethiopia, Wiesbaden 2011.

    Nicolas, Andrea, Governance, Ritual and Law: Tulama Oromo Gadaa Assemblies, in: Uhlig, Siegbert (Ed.), Proceedings of the XVth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Hamburg July 20-25, 2003, Wiesbaden 2006, 168-176.