Layers of traditions: politics of memory and polarisation in contemporary Ethiopia

This monograph considers how contrasting memories of the past contribute to discord and conflict in the country.

The Ethiopian political landscape has been a battlefield of ‘memory wars’ for more than half a century. This monograph analyses a crucial polarising factor in contemporary Ethiopia – contrasting material representations of competing memories. Competition between official and vernacular memories is anchored in and reinforced by contrasting interpretations of Ethiopia’s past. The monograph examines the revivalist, moderationist and rejectionist approaches used by political elites to define and institutionalise their preferred memory discourses. These elites use previously ‘invented traditions’ or invent traditions themselves. The contradictions between these competing approaches and contrasting layers of ‘invented traditions’ contributed to discord and polarisation.

About the author

Tegbaru Yared is a Researcher with the Horn of Africa Security and Analysis Programme at the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa. His research focuses on ethnicity, nationalism, memory studies, conflict and peace studies, and federalism.

Image: © Amelia Broodryk/ISS

Development partners
This monograph is funded by the Government of the Netherlands. The ISS is grateful for support from the members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the European Union, the Open Society Foundations and the governments of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
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