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[PANEL] 0503 ENTANGLED HISTORIES AND TRADITIONS: ETHIOPIA AND THE WORLD
Zara POGOSSIAN, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
Verena KREBS, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
Wolbert G. C. SMIDT, Research Centre Gotha, Erfurt University, Germany / PhD Programme History and Cultural Studies, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
Samuel RUBENSON; Ekaterina GUSAROVA; Wolbert SMIDT; Dominique HARRE; UOLDELUL Chelati Dirar;
This panel will explore the textual evidence of Ethiopia’s engagement with various Eurasian cultures in the pre-modern period, making it a locus of exchanges and cross-cultural connections between Europe, Asia and Africa. The time-period to be covered shall include from the Christianization of Ethiopia to the end of the nineteenth century. Papers should focus on relevant textual sources from the three continents, either in languages of Europe and Asia or those written in Ge’ez or Amharic, including diplomatic records. Based on the available evidence, the papers should explore the type of cultural transfer that can be documented (in any direction) and how we can appreciate its importance in forming various traditions in Ethiopia, for example regarding the cult of saints, royal ideology, international diplomatic relations, etc. We are interested in exploring especially such little-studied subjects, as Armenian-Ethiopian connections, texts in Ge’ez that denote transmission of themes and topoi between Muslims, Jews and Christians, and diplomatic records that focus on the idea of crusades.
ACTA AETHIOPICA, VOLUME IV [Abstract ID: 0503-06]
The Acta Aethiopica is a series in which the original Ethiopian documents of the 19th century are published in fascimile with English translation and annotations, as well as indices. In a field where scholarship has most oftenly depended on the reports and letters of Europeans, it is essential that the voice of the Ethiopians is heard. Volume four presents the original documents of the period 1880-1884. The work was left unfinished when Sven Rubenson passed away and has been finalized by me in collaboration with Professor Shiferaw Bekele.
CURIOUS AND UNKNOWN FACTS OF NIKOLAY ASHINOV’S MISSION IN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0503-10]
Nikolay Ashinov, the Russian free Cossack ataman, is considered an adventurer in literary sources of the last quarter of the 19th century. It is generally accepted that he managed to reach Ethiopia twice, in 1885-1886 and at the end of 1888-1889. The period was marked by intense international activity of European Empires in the struggle to acquire new colonies. The main idea of Ashinov was to found a Russian naval base on the Red Sea shore and to establish strong political and religious links between Ethiopia and the Russian Empire. The heritage of the mission can be found in different state institutions of the Russian Federation and other countries involved in the conflict (libraries, archives and museums). We refer here to official correspondence of the Ministries of foreign affairs, private letters, diaries of the participants in the mission, memoirs of contemporaries, manuscripts, etc. In the process of analyzing this material it turned out that not all of it was taken into account by researchers of Ashinov’s activity in the Horn of Africa. In particular, it was revealed that between April 1886 (the end of the first trip) and November 1888 (the beginning of the last trip) Ashinov organized one further trip to Ethiopia (less official, if we can say so in the context of the generally unofficial character of his actions), probably together with his wife. From a certain point of view Ashinov was a part of an inconsistent game of Russian politicians and diplomats on the international scene. In the course of the present research we propose to rethink Ashinov’s mission, its goals, ideas and results, and to remove, where possible, the negative connotation of the word adventurer, ubiquitously used to describe him.
EPISTOLOGRAPHIA AETHIOPICA: ETHIOPIAN LETTERS OF THE 19TH CENTURY IN THE ST CHRISCHONA COLLECTIONS [Abstract ID: 0503-03]
One of the most important source editions on Ethiopian history were the three volumes of the “Acta Aethiopica” by Sven Rubenson. That work made several hundreds of diplomatic and other letters written by Ethiopian leaders and individuals accessible to the public and researchers, which has changed (and is still changing) our perspective on the history of relations between Ethiopia and the outside world. Despite the fact that Rubenson consulted a great number of foreign archives, from Egypt to Turkey and France and England etc., still other very important collections of Ethiopian letters remain unknown. This paper presents a collection of almost 80 Ethiopian letters mainly kept in the widely unknown collections of the St Chrischona Pilgrim Mission in Switzerland. These letters, written by Ethiopians linked with the early Protestant mission in Ethiopia between 1855 and 1896, including some Ethiopian rulers (such as atse Tewodros II, Yohannes IV and Menilek II), give us an insight into the radically changing foreign relations of Ethiopia starting from the mid-19th century. This was the period, in which modern Ethiopia was formed, between the attempts of reform by Tewodros II and the successful repellation of colonial armies under Menilek II. The – often highly religious – letters reflect the intellectual and religious history of the country in the context of the mission, but also report in detail about marking historical events such as the conflict with the dervishes and the great famine of the late 1880s. They are witnesses of a cultural transfer, based on purely local movements of religious reform linking themselves with the outside world, and on a highly active production of foreign religious texts in Amharic, imported into Ethiopia.
ETHIOPIA AND NON-WESTERN TRANSFERS OF MATERIAL CULTURE IN THE 19TH-CENTURY [Abstract ID: 0503-02]
Important cultural transfers often lack a coherent corpus of historical sources when they relate to material culture. This is the case for new business and economic traditions that emerged in the late-19th century Ethiopia making the country part of the ongoing capitalism’s expansion in the Red Sea/Indian Ocean area. A turning point was reached when foreign communities, such as Armenians, Muslim and Jain Indians, and Greeks, settled in increasing numbers along the Somaliland coast, in Djibouti, and in Ethiopia. Under the active encouragement of Menelik II they introduced the large trans-local businesses that operated between India, Aden, the Ottoman Empire, as well as global consumer markets. They also brought a new urban architecture and specialised craftsmanship. These early exchanges had long-lasting effects on Ethiopia’s diplomatic, material, and cultural bonds. The paper presents selected textual evidence essential to understand the movements of people and relationships that made these cultural transfers possible. Some rare documents come directly from merchants, builders, and craftsmen of Indian origin, who also left more tangible traces in the urban landscape, first in Harar and then in Addis Ababa, than their written accounts. Other textual evidence is incorporated from disparate and indirect sources, including diplomatic archives from various countries, consular registers, and contemporary travel accounts. This written evidence yields enough material of its own to be a fruitful ‘discussion’ with non-textual sources, including oral sources. It too suggests ways to document the non-Western origins of modernisation in Ethiopia in a non-colonial context.
MONOXOITO OR COLONIA CATTOLICA RELIGION, POLITICS AND ETHNICITY IN THE FORMATION OF A CATHOLIC COMMUNITY IN AN ITALIAN COLONIAL BORDERLAND, 1897-1917 [Abstract ID: 0503-05]
In Colonial Africa there are many interesting examples of missionaries’ attempts to establish communities of converted Africans. The purpose of this activity was mainly to create nuclei of Africans potentially allied to missionary agencies first and to Colonial powers later on. The aim of my paper is to investigate a similar episode that happened in the late 19th century in colonial Eritrea. That is the case of the community of Monoxoito or Colonia Cattolica as it was most commonly known during colonial times.The case of Monoxoito is of particular interest for the historian. On one hand, Monoxoito has been one of the few cases of successful establishment of a Catholic community in Colonial Eritrea, in spite of a protracted missionary activity in the region. From a missiological perspective it is worth investigating the reasons for the success of this experiment. On the other hand, Monoxoito deserves special scrutiny as it provides a fascinating and complex case study of negotiations between local population, missionaries and colonial authorities in a region which could be defined as a sort of colonial borderland. In an environment marked by the complex and fluid overlapping of religious, ethnic and linguistic identities, it is worthwhile investigating the interplay between African agency, and colonial strategies.What emerges from archival and secondary literature of those years is an interesting plan to use the community settled in Monoxoito as both a religious and political outpost.The main idea was to use this community as a potential bridge between converted communities in northern Tegray (particularly among the Irob and Agame communities) and the Italian colonial administration. In other words the idea was to build a network of political loyalties and consensus through the support given to the converted Catholics that were escaping from religious persecutions. Since Monoxoito is a border village, it is my aim to analyse the impact of those policies on the complex and elusive game of definition and creation of local identities. It is,in fact, interesting to see how local identities could be strengthened or weakened as a result of external pressures. On the opposite side it is also interesting to check how external policies were influenced or modified by the existence of previous balances of power. My paper is mainly based on archival documents of that period produced by both colonial and missionaries authorities as well as on reports in Tigrinya language written by some of the witnesses of those events.
THE CRUSADER: ETHIOPIA, CRIMEA AND JERUSALEM IN THE THOUGHT AND POLITICS OF ATSÉ TÉWODROS II [Abstract ID: 0503-08]
Atsé Téwodros II saw himself as a crusader, as historical sources show, and believed in his destiny to conquer the Holy Land for the glory of Christendom, possibly even leading a joint British-Ethiopian expedition against the Muslims. Yet, the political dreams and aims of the negus were incompatible with the international politics of the day, which saw the British ally with the (Muslim) Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War, against another Christian power. His understanding of global politics was rather rooted in the geo-politics of the late Middle Ages, as his paper suggests, when crusading had been discussed by a variety of nägäst. Within this framework of political thought, Téwodros was both unwilling and unable to adjust to the realpolitik practiced by the Europeans, which eventually, led to his death at his own hands.