International Journal of
Sociology and Anthropology

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Sociol. Anthropol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2006-988X
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJSA
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 305

Full Length Research Paper

Social organization and cultural institutions of the Afar of Northern Ethiopia

Kelemework Tafere Reda
Social Anthropology, Mekelle University, P. O. Box 175, Mekelle, Ethiopia.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 01 June 2011
  •  Published: 30 November 2011



An anthropological study was conducted on the social organizations and traditional cultural institutions of the Afar pastoral society in northern Ethiopia. This paper describes the clan-based institutions that are central to Afar culture and cosmology. Gerontocracy (the rule of elders), well established economic and political support networks and a patriarchal authority at all levels feature in the Afar mode of life. Descent is traced through the male line and women, while substantially contributing to household income earning, occupy only a marginal place in the society. The Afar people are known for their efficient communication skills and institutions. They are well versed and articulate in expressing their views in a disciplined manner, often consolidating their arguments using carefully selected idiomatic expressions and proverbs.


Key words: Afar, culture, institutions, Ethiopia.