Field and river

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

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

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Serge DEWEL, INALCO Paris, France

Time is the primary material of History and it can only be grasped by a delicate operation of periodization; delicate because complex, subjective and highly significant. The cutting out of the chronology into centuries is quite convenient for anyone referring to the past. However, it does not reflect the long-time phases of a society’s history. In order to better approach the reality of a society sometime in the past it is necessary to superpose a pragmatic periodization over the arithmetical timeline. Those superimpositions are long periods which are defined by identifying features such as Antiquity, Middle-Ages and Modern Era in the linear approach of the chronology. Those designations are applied to the world’s scale but are modelled on western historiographical chronologies. As a legacy of its Orientalist background, Ethiopian Studies are still built on exogenous historical paradigms, among other things the main phases of the Western History’s periodization (Middle-Ages for instance) and foreign social structures (feudalism, vassal, serfdom, etc.). But we know how much words are influencing the way that fields are perceived. Serfdom and feudal structure are referring to a precise and typical political and social organization in a particular time of European History; a different reality than what occurred in Ethiopia. It is therefore scientifically incorrect to evoke a feudal state in Ethiopia, the ‘Middle-Ages’ or any ‘medieval’ concept. In the same way, it seems necessary to define a periodization directly referring to the Ethiopian History. In this aim we would like to suggest a cutting out of the Ethiopian History centred on Ethiopia and its own reality.