Midgan Somali in 1922
|Regions with significant populations|
|Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya|
The Madhiban (Somali: Madhibaan), also known as Midgan, Midgaan, Mitjan, Muse Dheri or Gaboye, are an artisanal caste among Somali people. They have been endogamous, and their traditional hereditary occupation has been as hunters and circumcision performers.
They are also referred to as Madhibe, an appellation which is sometimes used pejoratively. The Madhiban have been one of the low status castes among the Somalis, along with Tumal and others.
Distribution and names
According to a 1960 count, they numbered around 20,000 out of 640,000 Somalis in parts of Somalia that were within the then British Protectorate. Their numbers in other parts of Somalia and other Somali regions were unknown.
The terms Madhiban, Muse Dheri, Midgan or Midgaan for this Somali caste are found in historic literature, but in modern discourse, the term Gaboye is increasingly common. This caste is distinct from the Tumal and Yibir outcast communities because each is accused of things different from each other in Somali society.
The Madhiban were historically hunters, but now engage in occupations like leather work (shoemaking). They also are the traditional circumcision performers for both males, and females in the Somali society. These professions have traditionally been considered dirty, and the Madhiban have been a part of the sab or lower castes as opposed to the aji or upper castes.
According to Lee Gunderson, Dennis Murphy Odo and Reginald D'Silva, the Midgan have traditionally been treated as a low caste, scorned and reviled. A Midgan-Madiban has been deemed as polluting and therefore avoided as a taboo in the Somali society.
Under Somalia's military administration, some Madhiban were appointed to positions within the government to promote integration. As Hawiye, the Madhiban along with the Habargidir and Abgaal (collectively referred to as Haw) have since obtained wider political representation. Their general social status has also improved with the expansion of urban centers.
Description from 1890
In 1890 Élisée Reclus, in his extensive work "The Earth and its Inhabitants: AFRICA" (Vol. IV, South and East Africa) described the Madhiban (Midgan) as follows: In still greater contempt are held the Midgans, called also Rami, that is to say "Archers," who are universally regarded as the lowest of the low. They worship trees and snakes, and eat all the prohibited food, such as fish, fowl, eggs, hares, and gazelles. They are also daring hunters, fearlessly attacking the lion and the elephant, whom they pierce with their poisoned arrows. Like the Yebirs, the Midgans also practise medicine, and have the reputation of being extremely clever charlatans. According to the Somali legends, the lower castes are the issue of crossings between Abyssinian women and maleficent genii, while the Midgans are of still more degraded origin, their ancestors having been the slaves of these Abyssinian women.
Cognate castes in Horn of Africa
The Madhiban caste is not an exception limited to the Somali ethnic group, and equivalent cognate caste is found in numerous ethnic groups in Horn of Africa and East Africa. According to Donald Levine – a professor of Sociology specializing in Ethiopian and Horn of Africa studies, similar caste groups in different languages and ethnic groups have been integral part of societies of this region. These strata have featured all the defining characteristics of caste, states Levine, characteristics such as "endogamy, hierarchy, status, concepts of pollution, restraints on commensality, a traditional occupation and membership by birth". In east African ethnic groups, such as the Oromo people, cognates to Somali castes have been recorded in 16th century texts, states Cornelius Jaenen. The table below illustrate some alternate terms for castes mirroring the Madhiban in other ethnic groups that share this region with the Somali people.
|Ethnic group||Caste name||Occupation|
|Somali||Midgan, Madhiban||hunters, tanners|
|Amhara people||Weyto, Faqi||hunters, tanners|
|Borana people||Watta||hunters, tanners, potters, foragers|
|Gurage people||Fuga||hunters, woodworkers|
|Janjero people||Fuga||hunters, potters, tanners|
|Kefa people||Manjo||hunters, guards|
- Djibouti: Situation of members of the Madhiban caste, including treatment by society and authorities; state protection and services (2003-October 2013), UNHCR, IRB Canada (2014)
- Donald N. Levine (2014). Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. University of Chicago Press. pp. 62, 195. ISBN 978-0-226-22967-6.
- [Е. de Larajasse (1972), Somali-English and Somali-English Dictionary, Trubner, pages 108: Midgan, 119, 134, 145, 178
- Mohamed A. Eno and Abdi M. Kusow (2014), Racial and Caste Prejudice in Somalia, Journal of Somali Studies, Iowa State University Press, Volume 1, Issue 2, pages 104-106
- David F. Horrobin (2012). The Somali, in "A Guide to Kenya and Northern Tanzania". Springer. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-94-011-7129-8.; Е. de Larajasse (1972), Somali-English and Somali-English Dictionary, Trubner, page 108
- Е. de Larajasse (1972), Somali-English and Somali-English Dictionary, Trubner, pages 108, 119, 134, 145, 178
- The Middle East, Issue 4, (Northumberland Press: 2007), p.196
- Andreas Zimmermann; Jonas Dörschner; Felix Machts (2011). The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and Its 1967 Protocol: A Commentary. Oxford University Press. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-19-954251-2.
- JW Kirk (1904), THE YIBIRS AND MIDGÀNS OF SOMALI-LAND, THEIR TRADITIONS AND DIALECTS, African Affairs, Oxford Journals Social Sciences, Volume 4, Issue XIII, pages 91-108
- Lewis, I. M. (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. James Currey Publishers. pp. 7–8, 13–14. ISBN 0852552807. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
- Lewis, I.M. (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 7, 14 with footnotes. ISBN 3825830845. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
- David F. Horrobin (2012). The Somali, in "A Guide to Kenya and Northern Tanzania". Springer. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-94-011-7129-8.
- Е. de Larajasse (1972), Somali-English and Somali-English Dictionary, Trubner, page 108
- Wright, Jane (1996). "Female genital mutilation: an overview". Journal of Advanced Nursing. Wiley-Blackwell. 24 (2): 251–259. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.1996.01934.x.
- Gallo, Pia Grassivaro; Tita, Eleanora; Viviani, Franco (2006). "At the Roots of Ethnic Female Genital Modification: Preliminary Report, in Bodily Integrity and the Politics of Circumcision". Springer: 49–55. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-4916-3_4.
- Jama, Hassan Ali (2005). Who Cares about Somalia: Hassan's Ordeal ; Reflections on a Nation's Future. Verlag Hans Schiler. pp. 97–98. ISBN 3899300750. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
- Lee Gunderson; Dennis Murphy Odo; Reginald D'Silva (2013). ESL Literacy Instruction. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-135-05238-6.
- Thomas M. Leonard (2013). Encyclopedia of the Developing World. Routledge. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-135-20508-9.
- Mohamed A. Eno and Abdi M. Kusow (2014), Racial and Caste Prejudice in Somalia, Journal of Somali Studies, Iowa State University Press, Volume 1, Issue 2, pages 91-92, 95-96, 108-112
- Lewis, I.M. (2008). Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: Culture, History, Society. Columbia University Press. p. 8. ISBN 0231700849.
- See: "The Earth and its Inhabitants: AFRICA", Vol. IV, South and East Africa. By Élysée Reclus. Edited by A.H. Keane B.A., New York, D. Appleton and Company., 1890 (page 399).
- Donald N. Levine (10 December 2014). Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. University of Chicago Press. pp. 57, 169–171. ISBN 978-0-226-22967-6.
- Shack, William A. (1964). "54. Notes on Occupational Castes Among the Gurage of South-West Ethiopia". Man. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 64: 50–52. doi:10.2307/2797801.
- Donald N. Levine (10 December 2014). Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. University of Chicago Press. pp. 57–58. ISBN 978-0-226-22967-6.
- Cornelius J. Jaenen (1956), The Galla or Oromo of East Africa, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, University of Chicago Press, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Summer, 1956), pages 171-190
- Donald N. Levine (10 December 2014). Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. University of Chicago Press. pp. 195–196. ISBN 978-0-226-22967-6.
- Saïd Amir Arjomand (2014). Social Theory and Regional Studies in the Global Age. State University of New York Press. pp. 229–237. ISBN 978-1-4384-5161-9.
- Hassan Ali Jama, Who cares about Somalia, (Verlag Hans Schiler: 2005)
- I.M. Lewis, A pastoral democracy, (James Currey Publishers: 1999)
- New Arabic Documents from Somalia, B.W. Andrzejewski, I.M. Lewis and R.S. O'Fahey (1994) – mention of Midgans in early Arabic documents