Archiv der Kategorie: Vorträge

Video Online-Presentation: The Fragility of Addis Ababa’s Urban Heritage

Piet Nieder

11. July 2024,18:00 CET

In its early decades, the Ethiopian capital, founded in 1886, witnessed a very specific form of architecture. At the beginning of the East African country’s first urbanisation process, a mixture of vernacular knowledge and a new cosmopolitan mindset led to an architectural type that local professionals refer to as the ‘Addis Ababa Style’: Pavilion-like buildings of different sizes, made of stone, earth, and wood, characterised by expressive pinched roofs, generous verandas with curtain walls, and a high degree of detailing. Today, those graceful, appropriate, and nature-based buildings are under threat of being swallowed up due to shortsighted economic – or political? – interests.
In cooperation with the Institute for Architecture in Addis Ababa (EiABC), architects of Berlin’s Technical University studied this typology with regard to its embeddedness in local resources, climatic conditions, and craftsmanship. As such, they employed the ‘Addis Ababa House’ as a case study to discuss the possibility of a non-industrial building type that reflects the desire for a cosmopolitan urban life.

The two pictures were taken on the same day in Piassa. Left: Locals leaf through the new book „The House of Addis Ababa“. Right: Piassa residents are forced to demolish their inherited homes within a few days.

Registration by email.

Piet Nieder is a practicing architect and researcher at Technical University Berlin. His doctoral thesis looks at the potential of traditional building techniques for architectural solutions in transforming urban territories in Ethiopia. He holds a Master of Science in Architecture from ETH Zurich. Between 2012–2013, he taught architectural design at the Ethiopian Institute for Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC) of Addis Ababa University.

Video Online-Presentation: Abiy’s religious conception of politics and its implications for domestic and regional governance

Dereje Feyissa Dori

13. June 2024,18:00 CET

The Abiy administration represents a rupture in Ethiopian politics in many ways. This rupture is visible at least in three domains of political life: ideological shifts, ethnic power reconfiguration, and rebalance between ethnicity and the politics of national unity. In this talk I discuss Ideological shifts with an emphasis on Abiy’s religious conception of politics, evident in his messianic self-understanding, and the spiritually-animated political agency connected to that, as well as his obsession with vanity projects, and a legacy-driven big push in his port politics. Turning EPRDF’s assertive secularism upside down, Abiy’s socioeconomic transformational scheme gives the impression that „it is faith, Stupid!“. Much of „the boldness“ or „the delusion“ with which he exercised power in Ethiopia and in the wider region has roots in his religious ideological formation that draws on the tenets of the Prosperity Gospel. An aspect of this is how his political decision making is heavily informed by positive thinking and religious analogical reasoning. As strategic as he is with a background in the security sector, Abiy is also a religious practitioner. Taking the religious Abiy seriously thus provides unique insights to understand his often-unfathomable politics. As the Thomas theorem has it, not objective conditions of situations, but their (culturally grounded) definitions by the actors determines people’s actions. In the case of Abiy one could formulate this as: if he believes something to be the case, then he acts accordingly. The political reality in Ethiopia is thus shaped, to some degree, by the spiritual conceptions of its current leader.

Registration by email.

Dereje Feyissa Dori holds a doctorate in social anthropology from Martin-Luther University/Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. He is the MIDEQ Co-Investigator for the Ethiopia – South Africa migration corridor and Adjunct Professor at Addis Ababa University. He can be contacted by email.

Video Online-Presentation: Sacred Images of Ethiopia: The Collection of Ethiopian Icons in the Museum „Fünf Kontinente“ in Munich

Carolin Schäfer

16. May 2024,18:00 CET

The dissertation project focuses on the largest collection of Ethiopian icons in Europe and aims to produce both a museum catalogue and a comprehensive guide to this object category. The Ethiopian icons in Munich have never been catalogued in a comprehensive manner before and will thus offer an important reference for those interested in these objects. Furthermore, the collection of 94 icons, produced in all the Christian regions of historic Ethiopia and datable between the 15th century and modern times, provides a vast and varied enough corpus to allow for historical and regional categorisation. Finally, these icons demonstrate an abundance of intercultural and even transreligious influences, which are likely due to the Horn of Africa’s fortunate position for trade and the spread of ideas. 

Accordingly, this PhD project has two main objectives. The first is to build categories of icons based on their places and dates of production, as well as their styles and iconographies, in the end to be able to trace the development of Ethiopians icons as they occur in the Museum Fünf Kontinente and in further museums. Secondly, the project focusses on the intercultural influences, such as by Eastern Christian, Persian, Indian, Asian, Latin, and Islamic cultures, working on the Ethiopian icons and tries to identify their origins.

Registration by email.

„The Oxford Handbook of Ethiopian Languages“ – An online book presentation

Ronny Meyer

27. February 2024,18:00 CET

This book presentation provides a general overview and basic introduction to the recently published collective volume The Oxford Handbook of Ethiopian Languages (OHEL) (

Ethiopia is home to almost one hundred thirty million people who speak about eighty languages belonging to the Cushitic, Omotic and Semitic sub-branches of Afroasiatic and Nilo-Saharan. Their speakers have been in contact for several centuries, resulting in bi- and multilingualism and the establishment of regional and national linguae francae. Moreover, this situation gave rise to the Ethiopian Linguistic Area, in which languages of different genetic origin started to develop similar linguistic features.

Despite this linguistic diversity and ongoing changes, general reference works on Ethiopian languages and linguistics all dating to the 1970s are now outdated. More recent works focus mainly on the Semitic languages and consequently lack information on Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo-Saharan languages. The most recent general reference work on Ethiopia, the Encyclopedia Aethiopica (2003–2014), also contains information on Ethiopian languages, but usually in a very sketchy manner, often neglecting large parts of the morphology and syntax of the languages. Similarly, handbooks on African languages such as Heine et al. (1987), Heine/Nurse (1997), and Vossen/Dimmendaal (2020) deal with various Ethiopian languages but provide only very general information. Most of these works do not deal with sociolinguistic aspects of the languages and language groups.

Thus, there was a need for an up-to-date major reference work. The OHEL provides a comprehensive account of the languages spoken in Ethiopia, examining both their structures and linguistic features, as well as their function and use in society. It provides background and general information on Ethiopian languages, including their demographic distribution and classification, language policy, scripts and writing, and language endangerment. The book also provides an up-to-date overview of the four major language families in Ethiopia. Both major and less documented languages are included, ranging from Amharic and Oromo to Zay, Gawwada, and Yemsa. It also examines the languages that fall outside these four families, namely Ethiopian Sign Language, Ethiopian English, and Arabic in Ethiopia.

OHEL is of particular interest to senior scholars and graduate students with an interest or specialization in Ethiopian languages, and may also attract general linguists, language typologists, African linguists, and Ethiopianists. Furthermore, we, the editors, hope that it will have an impact on Applied Linguistics in Ethiopia, since many of the languages covered in the OHEL have recently been introduced in primary education, although they are still inadequately described. We strongly believe that the OHEL will find a wide national Ethiopian and international readership.

Registration by email.

Painting from Tigray

State and society in local Tigrinya language practice – how culture resists

Wolbert G.C. Smidt

12. December 2023,18:00 CET

This talk focuses on local language practices, in contrast to official discourses on language and established understandings of vocabulary. In language practice, understanding of words are to some degree highly fluid and situational – according to political context, local experiences of success or suffering, cultural norms regarding the self-organisation of society, networking, negotiations of chances and mutual relations, and of historical memory shape the use of words. This includes local traditions of resistance against power, from a very local to the state level. This talk will focus on Tigrinya practice in the urban and rural context in Tigray, not within institutional settings (which tend to be state-oriented), but in private conversations (which are reflecting daily practice fluctuating between trust for the state and ideas of local rights beyond the state). Vocabulary around concepts of „land“ (addi, hager) are discussed, such as concepts of „government“ (mengisti) and of „law“ (heggi), which are used in a particular way in local parlance, marked by centuries of strong local autonomy, challenges of survival and the periodical presence of state actors. The state, at least the modern one, appears rather as an outside force, from which one may need protection, against one needs to rebel, or to which one needs to submit or which provides chances to be used – while in all cases, language practice shows the domination of local views of life organisation, land use and law, where the state is not authoritative. In short: Local realities defy the illusions of a strong state.

Registration by email.