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Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies - BIGSAS

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Haile, Aklilu Tetemke

Research Interests:

Social Anthropology

Geographical Area:


Current Project:

Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the "National Question" in Ethiopia: Genesis and Trajectory

This research project seeks to study the 'National Question" in Ethiopia. While the current federal system is meant to be a solution to the cultural, religious and ethnic plurality of the country, ethnic based claims and conflicts are still persistent. The project will investigate the many polarized views on ethnic based politics (and conflicts) by exploring the genesis of the 'national question' and the different ways in which it is, and was, represented, constructed and contested. The study will mainly focus on a particular period, namely from the time when the 'national question' emerged as a political utopia within the students' movement in the 1960s, to its concretization as (ethnic based) federalism in the 1990s to the current debates on the issue. The study departs from the assumption that the 'national question', i.e. the question of ethno-cultural and political heterogeneity within the framework of one political entity, or, to the contrary, the claim to achieve political and cultural unity on the basis of which the Ethiopian nation and the Ethiopian nation-state will emerge, are 'basic narratives' (in the sense of v. Trotha) of the Ethiopian political culture, contested and debated from imperial time to date.
The Ethiopian political history for the period of our study seems to be well covered. There are, however, crucial gaps in this regard. In particular, the debates on the 'national question' from the beginnings in the students' movements and during the liberation war, are hardly dealt with, if at all. The present study hence sets out to fill this empirical gap. Methodologically, the research combines approaches from political science, political history and anthropology. One of the main historical sources are the archival documents of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), to which the author will get full access. It is planned to conduct biographical (or biography-oriented) interviews with former and incumbent political leaders most of whom are already identified. To complement and guide the data collection process, the researcher will employ auto-ethnography as a supplementary method. Furthermore, he will review reports on the topic in various media, including in media archives. He will also observe and record political performances in relation to the research question, which will allow him to better evaluate statements in interviews.

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