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Title: Alterity, coloniality and modernity in Ethiopian political thought : the first three generations of 20th century Amharic-language intellectuals
Author: Marzagora, Sara
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 7387
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis investigates the political thought of the first three generations of 20th century Ethiopian intellectuals. It focuses on Amharic-speaking scholars, journalists and fiction writers close to the centre of the Ethiopian state and active between the 1900s and the early 1970s. The political thought of the intellectuals under consideration moved mostly within the confines of the dominant imperial discourse promoted by successive Ethiopian monarchs, called Grand Narrative in the thesis. The Grand Narrative, I argue, is characterised by a particular conception of alterity and coloniality. In the Grand Narrative, alterity is perceived as a threat to negate, eliminate or assimilate. Similarly, the Grand Narrative attempts to minimise, if not entirely suppress, Ethiopia's relation with colonialism. It is through the lens of alterity and coloniality that the thesis analyses the key ideological debate of 20th century Ethiopian political thought, that on modernity and modernisation. In contrast with the widespread historiographical tendency to describe Ethiopian political thought through Western concepts such as 'liberalism', 'progressivism' and 'conservatism', the thesis closely engages with local Amharic terminology. It explores how the notion of zämänawinnät, the Amharic word that usually translates 'modernity', was theorised in fictional and non-fictional works, classifying Ethiopian intellectuals based on their relationship with state-sponsored ideas of zämänawinnät. Presentday Ethiopian historians generally share a negative assessment of the way first-, second- and third-generation thinkers conceived modernity. Common argument of contemporary historiography is that the thinkers of the imperial period failed to theorise for Ethiopia a viable model of modernisation. The thesis investigates in what ways the notion of failure can be applied to first-, second- and third-generation intellectuals. The intellectuals' upholding of the Grand Narrative's acoloniality is identified as a central problematic point. At the same time, the thesis nuances the accusation of failure, arguing that first-, second- and third-generation intellectuals did participate, albeit only partially and hesitantly, to the recolonisation of the Grand Narrative in the 1960s, when oppositional historiograhies proposed a more pluralistic and inclusive view of alterity and reconsidered the role played by colonialism in 19th and 20th century Ethiopian history.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral