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[PANEL] 0513 RETHINKING ETHIOPIAN STUDIES
KINDENEH Endeg Mihretie, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Dane LEVENE, University of Southampton
SAMUEL Zinabu; ALEMU Asfaw Nigusie; DESSALEGN Bizuneh; YIRGA Gelaw Woldeyes;
KINDENEH Endeg Mihretie; Serge DEWEL; Rainer VOIGT; THEODROS Assefa Teklu; TSEHAYE Hailemariam;
GINBAR Negera; Rev. Deacon GABRA 'AGZI'AABHIR Jr; TEWODROS Hailemariam
For far too long, Ethiopian studies as an academic field of study has been an exclusive preserve of the west. This often meant that Ethiopians themselves had little say on knowledge and knowledge production about Ethiopia and Ethiopians, both in the humanities and social sciences. This panel seeks to explore and critically assess the implications and epistemological ramifications of this trend, i.e., western (mainly European) dominated intellectual representation of Ethiopia. Topics to be explored include, but not limited to, issues such as; the ideological and institutional roots and evolution of Ethiopian studies, the notion of ‘Ethiopian exceptionalism’ and the kind of western perception of Ethiopia such notion informs, the alleged external roots of Ethiopian civilizations and cultures (including languages, religions, institutions of state formation and material culture), the place of vernacular/indigenous views and perspectives in western perceptions and representations of Ethiopia, the contributions (or lack thereof) of modern national scholarship in challenging western representations of Ethiopia from the establishment of national institutions of higher learning in the 1950s, to date etc. The panel invites contributions from various fields in the humanities and social sciences, --such as linguistics/philology, ethnography, history, art history, religious studies, literature, etc-- that seek to explore the implication of western dominated scholarship in the particular field of study. In view of the favorable atmosphere created by the recent expansion of institutions of higher learning throughout the country, the panel also seeks to explore the opportunities of charting new directions for Ethiopian studies where national institutions would take the lead in knowledge production about the country than follow from behind as has been the trend so far.
A BRIEF COMMENTARY ON HISTORIOGRAPHY OF HISTORY TEXTBOOK FOR GRADE 9: INTER-STATE CONFLICTS OF THE 16TH CENTURY ON THE HORN AFRICA AND ETHIOPIAN REGION (PP. 98- 105). [Abstract ID: 0513-02]
Textbooks are fundamental elements of education that deliver knowledge on disciplines with specifically designed arrangements for students. Though a standard textbook series may differ on the design and focus of the curriculum, they are the most common instructional materials in the classroom that provides a balanced and chronological presentation of information for teachers and students. It is conventional that, they are a major concern of schools, teachers, a research community and other stakeholders. With its broad and dynamic nature, a history textbook is the most vital instructional material that defines and determines what is important in history education for a particular grade level. As a basic source of knowledge and guiding instructional material, its preparation requires systematic curriculum design and presentation, which are indispensable tasks assigned for textbook writers who decided what should be excluded, and how particular episode in history should be narrated. This process usually invites a positive or negative interpretation of an event. Hence, periodic reviews and researches are mandatory to enrich textbooks and avoid misrepresentation of historical facts that cause biased understanding of history. This paper, therefore, tries to examine the historiographical presentation of History textbook for grade 9: “Inter-state conflicts of the 16th century on the Horn of Africa and Ethiopian Region (pp. 98- 105).” The historiography of the textbook under the stated title is examined against other scholarly researches or findings. I argue that the textbook I am examining has serious gaps of historical facts which need formative corrections and revision.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF ETHNICITY AND ITS RELEVANCE TO ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0513-10]
Despite decades old study of ethnicity, scholars have largely failed to answer basic questions that are pertinent to the topic because they study it from a single perspective (either from primordialism, constructivism, or instrumentalism) and such an isolated study could not fully elaborate the phenomenon. Consequently, as a remedy to this problem, an integrated approach to the study of ethnicity has been formulated by Philip Q. Yang. Thus, the central objective of this paper was to examine this new approach and test its relevance to the Ethiopian case, where ethnic identity has been playing a major role since the middle of 20th century. To this effect, primary and secondary data was collected through participant observation and document review. Accordingly, the integrated approach of ethnicity is found to include the central arguments of primordialism, constructivism, and instrumentalism. This approach is also found to be very crucial to understand and explain past and present Ethiopian socio-political systems, their concomitant ethnic policies and the political struggles thereof. This work thus concludes that, with all its limitations, studying such complex and dynamic issue as ethnicity requires adopting an integrated or holistic approach so that one could have a better picture of the issue at hand.
ANALYSIS AND CRITICISM OF ALEQA WOLDE MARIAM'S CHRONICLE OF TEWODROS II (R. 1855-1868) [Abstract ID: 0513-03]
Chronicles had been an important component of the Ethiopian historical milieu until the beginning of the 20th century. The tradition of composing Christian-Ge’ez chronicles dates as far back as the 14th century, though there existed an earlier local Arabic tradition.
Among three of the chronicles written on the reign of Emperor Tewodros II, one was composed by Aleqa Wolde Maryam. Wolde Mariam was not Tewodros’s court chronicler. He was a confidant of Abune Selama, the then Egyptian metropolitan of Ethiopia. He completed composing his chronicle of Tewodros around 1880/81, a little over a decade after the tragic death of the monarch. The story in this chronicle covers the life of the sovereign from Quara to Magdala- from childhood to end of his life in a fairly genuine but sketchy manner. The fact that Wolde Mariam’s chronicle is critical in treating both the positive and negative aspects of Tewodros’s period has necessitated a deeper analysis and criticism of it in this article. Besides this very chronicle, several other primary and secondary sources, including the other two chronicles of Emperor Tewodros II, have been used in the process of writing this article. In so doing, the facts provided in the chronicle were checked against other pertinent sources of the period for reliability and authenticity. This article contends that the chronicle, with all the limitations it has, can yield a great deal of information about the life and times of Emperor Tewodros II with which a balanced view of the period can be made.
ETHIOPIA AS METHOD: TOWARDS DECOLONISING ETHIOPIAN STUDIES IN EDUCATION [Abstract ID: 0513-06]
A call to decolonise Ethiopian studies is not an attempt to invalidate or discredit previous studies on Ethiopia. It is an attempt to critically reflect on modern representations of Ethiopia in light of the lived experiences, traditions and philosophies of its people. This paper critically reflects on two epistemological narratives that guide the study of Ethiopian history and traditions. The first is the narrative of traditionalism that portrays Ethiopian traditions either as barbaric or romantic expressions of bygone days. Traditionalism is commonly narrated in the study of Ethiopian history, culture and politics using the theme of war, victory, famine and an ancient civilization. The second is the narrative of globalism that portrays the existence of an international order that necessitates the integration of Ethiopia into the global system of ideas. Globalism is commonly used to justify the imitation of western ways of knowing, as can be seen in the imitation of western curriculum and language in education. Both traditionalism and globalism are dominant power positions rooted in western epistemology. They guide the selection, production and distribution of knowledges about Ethiopia while simultaneously excluding the lived experiences and local knowledges of the country from education. The paper challenges the two narratives by presenting a genealogy of silenced stories, local ways of being and knowing, philosophical traditions and lived experiences that are excluded from the education system. Finally, the paper distinguishes these two narratives from a third epistemological position, which is the use of Ethiopia’s indigenous knowledges and lived experiences as the starting point of inquiry and education. Ethiopia as method is a search for decolonising methodologies from Ethiopian experiences and traditions against the domination of western epistemology in the country and beyond.
ETHIOPIAN STUDIES; A FORM OF COLONIAL INTELLECTUAL PROTECTORATE AGREEMENT? [Abstract ID: 0513-04]
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.
FOR PERIODIZATION IN ETHIOPIAN STUDIES: AVOIDING AN ETHNOCENTRIC VIEW OF THE CHRONOLOGY [Abstract ID: 0513-09]
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.
GENESIS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE ETHIOPIC SCRIPT [Abstract ID: 0513-05]
The genesis of the Ethiopic script - if we are to rely on the pertinent works on writing and the history of writing – is usually seen as resolved in the sense that the Ethiopic script is only a slight but very important modification of the South Arabian script which arrived at the highlands in the Horn of Africa through the expansion of the Sabaean Empire. This view has however recently been more and more questioned by a number of Ethiopian (Eritrean) scholars. In this connection the work by Ayele Bekerie: Ethiopic – an African writing system, its history and principles (1997) plays an important role, a publication that has found some recognition in the Ethiopian sphere. Although two volumi-nous reviews have already been published concerning this book (Peter T. Daniels and Dereje Tadesse B) I myself would nevertheless also like to debate some points found in there. Hereby it seems to me to be imperative not to proceed in a polemic manner but to argue from a factual cum critical perspec-tive. I shall not enter here any questions concerning Africocentrism, nor will I deal with the migrations the Semites might have undertaken in the course of history, but I shall concentrate on the script alone and there again solely from the aspect of its possible derivation from Egyptian. The starting point will be a comparison between the Egyptian and the Ethiopic writing systems. This author finds some agreements and similarities that are then placed into a historical sequence. Howe-ver before a real historical linkage can be investigated it is tantamount to examine the assumed agreements between both writing systems.
INTERPRETING ETHIOPIA AS A RELATIONAL AND POROUS CULTURAL SPACE: DONALD LEVINE’S GREATER ETHIOPIA RECONSIDERED [Abstract ID: 0513-13]
With ethno-nationalist narratives standing out as the dominant modes of interpreting Ethiopia, there is something of a propensity to orient historical/cultural-political reflection away from any motivating concern for convergent histories and cultural integration. Contra this trend, there seems to be already a cultural exigency in Ethiopia that demands reflection on the historical interaction of different people groups of Ethiopia. In this article, I wish to draw attention to Donald Levine’s underappreciated interpretation of Ethiopia as a “relational network” (i.e., interpersonal, economic, social and political exchanges) and a “culture area” (e.g., common ethos and worldviews), which attest the existence of pan-Ethiopian traits. Based on Levine’s account and drawing on historical resources that would enrich and complement his sociological account, I argue that the existence of such traits suggest that there are still frontiers of commonalty to be explored. In this light, I will contend that contemporary cultural and political visions that foster an interpretation of Ethiopia as an aggregation of neatly defined and non-porous self-enclosed ethnic groups are flawed. Such misguided conceptions emanates from overlooking the various modes of dynamic social interactions that made possible the integration of Ethiopians across ethnic and religious divides, and the assumption that the commonly held ethos of togetherness is merely a modern political construct. Finally, I will conclude by drawing some considerations pertinent to social cohesion.
KANT ON ETHIOPIA: RETHINKING RACISM IN WESTERN PHILOSOPHY AS A MEANS OF (RE-) CONCEPTUALIZING ITS DISCOURSES WITHIN ETHIOPIAN PHILOSOPHY [Abstract ID: 0513-14]
One of the major Western philosophers heavily criticized for his racist views on the African continent is Immanuel Kant, which is by some explained with inherent connections between key-concepts of enlightenment and a new hierarchy constructed to separate peoples and cultures (see the critical studies by Gilman Sander 1975, 1992, Barkhaus 1993, Firla 1994, 1997, Smidt 1999). This was linked with the enlightenment's ambition to be able to better explain and understand any existing problem of the world, including differences between humans, in stark contrast with earlier positive views of Africans. As a recently rediscovered ethnological account by Kant shows us, however, he had, at least, a positive (or rather different) view of Ethiopia (Smidt, 2015). Building on this largely unknown account, this paper aims to discuss the historically rather recent invention of racism in several important streams of Western Philosophy, such as the Kantian enlightenment, in contrast to other streams of thinking (as put forward by the anthropological thinker Franz Boas, following Kant's intellectual foe Herder, one of the first to denounce Kant's racism already in the 18th century). The diversity of new racist concepts and counter-concepts from the 18th century, the surprising role of Ethiopia in these discussions, which was sometimes positively embraced by racists and sometimes victim of racism, will serve us as a means of Re(-conceptualizing) its discourses within Ethiopian Philosophy.
MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES IN ETHIOPIAN HISTORY: THE EMERGENT MULTI-ETHNIC ETHIOPIAN HISTORY AT A BROADER CONTEXT IN FOCUS [Abstract ID: 0513-12]
Today, Ethiopian history represents the country’s multiethnic groups of people history and historiography inculcated following the introduction of diverse ethnic politics since 1991. This approach in history has presented the prerogatives every ethnic group construct its history and then, forms whole-inclusive at one as opposed to the past mono-ethnic, state focused and north centric history. The objective of this study is to examine the extent to which multiethnic history prerogatives has developed from self-studying to whole-inclusive through the process of knowledge integration to curriculum, textbook, central publication and dissemination, etc and managing down its cynics. To be more realistic, Ethiopian history is wisdom of the populace that its teaching, learning and research process should be formal to the owner people at all necessary means than any time before. To this particular purpose, the study will be employing qualitative research approach, its various techniques of data collections and presents in descriptive style. The findings indicated that beyond recognizing the opportunities and efforts undergo in constructing history at every local decentralized level from below to meet the desired level, the attempt made to absorb the outcome to a common point and integrate to central knowledge process still witnessed both merits and demerits. Results showed that the expectation and supposition to set up exact multiethnic people history have demonstrated lethargic process due to mounting weaknesses from structural bottlenecking, curricular disinterests, lack of commitment, attenuation, etc. These seemed to have languished of addressing the past imbalances in the area and correcting some wrong views shaded the subject, lessened the subject area scientific value utilization for nation building and citizenships development at today’s multiethnic and emerging science and technology school environment. Thus, the paper calls for the need to mitigate weak circumstances and performances in giving necessary further attention to the area.
NEGLECTED ÆTHIOPIAN HISTORY: ‘THE LIFE & MARTYRDOM OF ST. MATTHEW AMONG THE ÆTHIOPIANS’ REJECTED AND IGNORED BY ETHIOPIANIST PAST AND PRESENT [Abstract ID: 0513-01]
'Neglect' of the most important piece of literature, which records therein the early history of Æthiopian kingship, government and socio-religious practices at the turn of History itself (1st cent. AD), and which answers the long contentious question, surely once and for all, viz. the relation between ancient Ægypt, lower Nubian Kush and Upper Æthiopia proper (Abyssinia) in the ancient (classical) times, besides so many other unanswered conundrums, is the greatest tragedy not only for Æthiopia and its People, but for Æthiopian Historical and Academic Research. The work of which we speak is 'De rebus gestis a Beato Matthæo Apostolo et Evangelista' (lib.vii) in 'De Historiæ Certaminis Apostolicæ' by Abdias Bishop of Babylon, originally written in the Hebrew-language of the 1st Century, Translated into Greek, by his disciple Eutropius, then into Latin by the Church-Father, Sextus Julius Africanus in the late 2nd century (and later transferred into diverse tongues). Accordingly at its core a 'hagiographical-work' with a manuscript tradition stretching over vast portions of Europe, including Italia, Deutschland, England, France &c. This is to say, from the very nations of which the institutional scholars who have sway in Ethiopian studies past and present issue forth, who from the 16th to the 21st centuries have all neglected and ignored a work of such magnitude (ramifications) that it can hardly be comprehended on the one hand or its importance overstated, for nothing if any, is spoken of this 'Chronicle' in any of the international literatures penned and overseen by such scholars/institutions. The consequence of which has impacted 'academia at large' and the continual barrage of unsubstantiated (unscientific) repetitions and even prejudice of six centuries, has dominated (shaped) Ethiopian studies itself. Furthermore it is so grave it has defaced the very fabric of Æthiopian 'cultural heritage', 'identity' and its historicity and place in 'ancient, mediaeval, religious and world history'. In contrast, the paper deems to evidence the veracity of the manuscript tradition, shew rich aspects of its historical account, while additionally supplementing with Indigenous-oral-hagiographical (historical) Æthiopian attestations. Also highlighting what impact it ought to (will) have on the social sciences and wider context moving forward.
UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEST OVER HISTORY AND MEMORY IN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0513-07]
Most theories of nationalism accord history a central place in the evolution and self-perception of a society. Not only social identities are grounded in history, but also knowledge itself is produced by history, or by the dominant discourses of history. Therefore, the ability to write history, to shape our social memory, is the greatest power of all. The ascendance of primordial ideologies in the era of strident globalization, escalation of communal bids for empowerment and historical space, and attendant challenges to the nation state and its monopoly over knowledge production, all reflect this inherent tension in history’s emanicipatory as well as oppressive potential. Modern Ethiopian history has not been exempted from such anxieties and polarizing rivalries of nationality and ethnicity. Since the inception of the ESM in the 1960s, history has been instrumentally used and abused by regimes to prop up their power, and by ethno-nationalists to combat the state with alternative ethnic narratives. Caught in this crossfire, academic history has been threatened by political imposition, marginalization and outright rejection on both sides of the divide. This paper begins by delineating the major fault lines between nationalist and nativist ideologies in Ethiopia and analyzes their uses and abuses of history and memory. The paper argues that historians need to take center stage in making ethnicity and nationality mutually intelligible. This starts from the recognition that the nation state is not the only basis of historiography. Where there are multiple identities, there will be multiple histories. Accordingly, the paper attempts to propose some methodologies which enable Ethiopian historians to accommodate rival interpretations and memories and to create an inclusive national narrative around shared experiences, values and common destiny.