The Horn of Africa is an ideal place to study forms of state resistance, because it has some of the oldest and most persistent state polities south of the Sahara, but at the same time state trajectories in the region are non-linear and fraught with obstacles and small-scale, stateless societies have proved to be extremely resilient, both in the periphery and at the heart of the state. Here I will explore three obstacles that have systematically thwarted state-building: 1) mobility among nomadic pastoralists; 2) internal frontiers, and 3) liminal ecologies, such as swamps and escarpments. And for that I will take an archaeological long-term approach.
Alfredo González-Ruibal is a researcher with the Institute of Heritage Studies of the Spanish National Research Council (Incipit-CSIC. Although trained as a prehistoric archaeologist specialising in Atlantic Europe, for the last 15 years he has worked on the archaeology of the contemporary past and African archaeology.
This book looks at the development politics that shaped the UNESCO World Heritage programme, with a case study of Ethiopian World Heritage sites from the 1960s to the 1980s. In a large-scale conservation and tourism planning project, selected sites were set up and promoted as images of the Ethiopian nation. This story serves to illustrate UNESCO’s role in constructing a “useful past” in many African countries engaged in the process of nation-building. UNESCO experts and Ethiopian elites had a shared interest in producing a portfolio of antiquities and national parks to underwrite Ethiopia’s imperial claims to regional hegemony with ancient history. The key findings of this book highlight a continuity in Ethiopian history, despite the political ruptures caused by the 1974 revolution and UNESCO’s transformation from knowledge producer to actual provider of development policies.
Marie Huber is a historian by training, and an expert for cultural and economic politics in developing countries. With her historical research she reflects and disentangles current, complex problems related to globalisation and inequality.
It is often observed that while externally supported state-building efforts in Somalia since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991 have been marked by failure or disappointing results, Somali society has not fared so badly. The experience of Somaliland, where peace was established by clan elders, permitting the development of effective contemporary state structures, was replicated in Puntland and in many other local settlements throughout Somalia, leading to a form of political order based largely on self-governance. An academic investigation of this political order, often characterized as ‘hybrid’, is impeded by the nearly complete absence in political theory of the concept of self-governance, especially in stateless (or ineffective state) environments. In theories about ‘hybrid political order’ it is often assumed that they combine ‘traditional authorities’ within modern state structures; however these ‘traditional authorities’ are barely examined; some kind of primordial hierarchy is usually assumed. In my presentation I unravel the ‘hybrid political order’ into its two components: social power based on self-governance, and state power, examining the former at length. This leads me to postulate what I call a ‘Dual Power Theory’. This presentation and the following discussion are based on the Somali context, from ancient Somali history through the experience of the effective Somali state (1960-1990) to Al Shabaab, the Federal Government and Somaliland today. If this conceptualization of self-governance and its rapport with state power provides a convincing key to understand Somali politics today, the Dual Power Theory may also help understand the failures of state-building initiatives elsewhere, as well as issues of political order in the contemporary world more generally.
Robert Kluijver is a PhD candidate who submitted his thesis, “The State in Somalia: Between Self- Governance and International Order”, to the Doctoral School of Sciences Po in Paris in the field of International Relations. It will be defended on 26 January 2023. Kluijver has been lecturing at Sciences Po since 2010, and given guest lectures abroad (Puntland State University, Somali International University, Hargeisa University, ETH Zurich, The Hague Institute for Social Studies). He has worked in ‘post-conflict’ settings in the Central Asia/Middle East/Horn of Africa region as international consultant since 1997, specializing in cultural development, besides working as a curator with contemporary artists and art organizations from the same region.
In this presentation, I propose an agrarian understanding of the current Ethiopian civil war. I argue that in the context of discourses of ethnic federalism, agricultural policies implemented by the EPRDF and subsequent PP regimes have taken part in framing contentious politics on the lines of ethnicity. Since the mid 2000s, agricultural policies aiming at extending cultivated surfaces have led to a rush for land in lowland peripheries. In such places, connection with the local branch of the EPRDF became a prerequisite for investors to access land. Local élites reacted diversely, by both encouraging and complaining about land transactions and work migration they entailed. As ethnicity provided the basis for party structuration and political representation, local land tensions espoused the same ethnic lines – although past agricultural practices were often more inclusive and allowed more fluidity, solidarity, and transactions between groups. Agricultural workers from other regions tried to access land, sometimes concluding transactions with groups which within the policies of ethnic federalism had been recognized as “locals”. Several policy items, including land registration programs implemented between 2014 and 2018, triggered local political violence. As the political crisis was deepening at the federal level, political parties and state institutions provided channels for local land conflicts to scale up. Meanwhile, agricultural investors played a prominent role in the creation of armed groups that are now active on the war’s frontlines.
This presentation brings together elements from ethnographic fieldwork carried out in several agricultural intensive areas, namely the Mettekel zone of Benishangul-Gumuz (from 2013 to 2019), Gambella’s coffee producing Majang zone (2014-2016), and Nothern Gonder and Wolqayt (2016-2021).
Ethiopia is lauded for achieving the most carbon free GDP growth in last two decades. The economy has expanded by a factor of five, while on a per capita basis, CO2 emissions from energy were the fourth-lowest in the world. Granted, the emission from these pumps may be minuscule in comparison but the absence of democratic accountability in how these green credentials have been achieved should be a cause for concern. With much of the funding for the infrastructure projects, such as the Gibe III dam, coming from non-domestic sources, data indicate that the Ethiopia government is more accountable to these funding sources than to the people more directly affected by such projects. This PhD project presentation aims to discuss how this inverted accountability impact rights to participate in environmental governance in Ethiopia.
Abduletif Kedir Idris is a PhD Candidate at the Max Plank Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale.
Our series of online lectures continues with a 3rd round in the winter 2022-23. The series presents a multidisciplinary scholarly engagement with and about the Horn of Africa region to a broader audience. The series starts on November 23 and will be held via Zoom meetings. Registration takes place via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
23. November 2022, 18:00 Abduletif Kedir Idris Development finance and the right to participate in environmental decision making in an authoritarian context: lessons from Gibe III hydro dam project in Ethiopia. Email registration Abstract
13. December 2022, 18:00 Mehdi Labzaé An agrarian reading of the Ethiopian civil war: entanglements of agriculture, investment, party politics, and ethnicity (Majang, Mettekel, Wolqayt; 2013-2021) Email registration Abstract
31. January 2023, 18:00 Alfredo Gonzáles-Ruibal Resisting the state in the Horn of Africa. A long-term perspective Email registration Abstract
14. February 2023, 18:00 Marie Huber Book presentation: „Developing Heritage–Developing Countries: Ethiopian Nation-Building and the Origins of UNESCO World Heritage, 1960–1980“ Email registration Abstract
Abstract of the Online-Presentation on 18 May 2022, 18:00
Since late 18th century Wollo has become a hot spot of Islamic scholarship in Ethiopia marked by a network of lslamic learning centers and highly respected scholars. The centers in Wollo became the main destination for Muslims from central and southern Ethiopia to conduct higher Islamic learning since the 19th century.
Although the crucial role of local Muslim scholars played in the “development of Islam and an indigenous Muslim culture“ particularly during the 19th and early 20th century has been stressed in historical research (cf. Ahmed 2001, etc.) the actual products of their activities, i.e. their literary works and their intellectual contributions to the development of local Islamic thought have largely remained unstudied until this day. In the presentation I try to give a a concise overview of historical dimension and background of Islamic scholarship in Wollo, based on available literature and my own research and, thus giving an outline of the context in which Islamic literature in Wollo was produced and used.
The Islamic literature of Wollo consists of works in Arabic as well as in local languages. While my focus lies on Islamic literature written in Amharic and Argobba, I had the opportunity to conduct some digitization work on Islamic manuscripts in Arabic as well (for the project IslHornAfr). Based on this work I will present a preliminary overview of the type of manuscripts and the genres represented in the digitized corpus and outline the chronological development of the literature from copying classical Arabic works in the earlier periods to the creation of locally authored works.
Coming to the focus of my own research I will briefly describe the development of Islamic literature in local languages, describe some features of this literature and its linguistic relevance as well as the repercussions of linguistic analysis for the understanding of the local society.