Modernity and Memory: Ethiopia’s Histories


8:15 PM – 10:15 PM (UAE Time)
Session 7



Moderator & Discussant
Surafel Wondimu Abebe - Assistant Professor at the Centre for African Studies and Researcher at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Women’s Reminiscences as Retrospective Openings: Women’s Voices on and about the Ethiopian Student Movement
Netsanet Gebremichael Weldesenbet - Researcher, Institute of Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

This paper examines the ways in which Ethiopian Women tell a story of the Ethiopian Student Movement and the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution. By examining women’s retrospective engagement in novels, creative films and non-literary genres namely memoirs, documentaries, oral interviews, blog posts, and academic writings, the paper will first present the ways in which the Ethiopian Student Movement is retrospectively described and analyzed in the works of Konjit Berhan, Hiwot Tefera, Meaza Mengiste, Salem Mekuria, Alem Desta, Genet Zewde, Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis, and Elleni Centime Zelleke. Their accounts are read in this study as a form of carving out a discursive space for a new kind of narrative about the Ethiopian Student Movement and the Ethiopian Revolution. These accounts narrate women’s role in the movement, raise questions about the place women were given in narratives (accounts) of the Ethiopian Student Movement and the Ethiopian Revolution. The paper will argue that these acts of retrospective reminiscences by women writers, academics, and artists illuminate how memory or acts of remembering are in and of themselves itineraries of contemporary intellectual and political accounts of the past linked to the present- through pending questions from the past. It will also argue that retrospective accounts, as illustrated in these works, create a new kind of opening through new tropes of descriptions, analyses, and critique. It is this re-engagement with the Ethiopian Student Movement and the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution from the perspective of Women’s voices that this paper conceptualizes as retrospective openings.

Concepts in Moments of Political Openings in Ethiopia: A Genealogical Reading of Progress from Belts’gena /Prosperity to Seletané/Civilization

Yonas Ashine (PhD) - Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian project of modernity, not to say modernization, have produced numerous historical episodes. Ruptures, contingencies, and discontinuities define and separate each historical and conceptual episode from the other. Often “sudden conceptual shifts” differentiated one from the other, though each shift also signifies a moment of political openings. This project is about sudden conceptual shifts and the emergence of new political terms and articulations in political opportunities in Ethiopia. By grounding on the contemporary politics of transition and political opportunity in Ethiopia, and its local, regional and global conditions, the study explores the emergence of belts’gena or ‘prosperity’ as a new political concept. The study inquires “prosperity’s” conditions of local and global possibility and its rhetorical power in heralding new historical episode in Ethiopia. The study dwells on two analytical explorations: first, it conducts an ethnographic contextual study of the emergence of prosperity as a key political concept and explores its discursive meaning focusing on the political economy it informs. Second by genealogical reading of the emergence of other similar concepts such as lemat and seletané (development and civilization) in the early 20th century; lemat and zemäna (development and modernization) in the liberation period, and lemat and edegät in the revolution period, it comparatively explores how conceptual shifts and emergence and their respective political contexts plays out in heralding new politics, rupture, and discontinuities.


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