Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

ICES20 logo

Use the "back" button of your browser to return to the list of abstracts.


KINDENEH Endeg Mihretie, Addis Ababa University/ Institute of Ethiopian Studies

The Berlin Conference played the most pivotal role in facilitating ‘the scramble for Africa’. Before the Berlin conference (held Nov.1884-Feb 1885), only a small portion of Africa was under colonial rule. After the conference almost all of Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia came under European colonial domination. Hence the main objective of the Conference, which was to facilitate the colonial scramble for Africa with the least cost for the colonial powers and without going to war with each other, was realized. The most striking feature of the Berlin Conference relevant to this paper is that while it was a conference held to decide the fate of an entirely different people of an entirely different continent, i.e., Africa, it was held without a single African representation. This becomes even more striking when one considers the fact that colonial protectorate agreements with native African chiefs were one of the means by which Britain asserted its colonial share in most of what became its African colonies. Yet none of the alleged native signatories were invited to Berlin to verify the authenticity of these protectorate agreements. This paper is not about the Berlin Conference. Neither is it about colonial protectorate agreements. Needless to say, Italy had tried to impose one on Ethiopia and miserably failed. This study is about likening traditional Ethiopian Studies, Western edition, as an intellectual version of colonial protectorate agreements. Though this might admittedly sound too radical at first sight, by interrogating some of the basic premises and conventions that inform the dominant approaches and methodologies of major disciplines of Ethiopian studies, such as, linguistics/philology, art history, history, literature, religious studies etc., this study will show that the proposed similitude is in fact more than a mere analogical coincidence. That in fact the colonial version, that is, deciding the fate of an entire continent as an exclusive Western affair, would not have happened and would not have attained some normativity, without some form of intellectual precursor preparing for it, of which, the paper proposes Ethiopian studies, that is, more specifically, Western representation of Ethiopia, is one.