PhD Public Defence: Mr. Yonas Ashine Demisse, MISR

Event Date
Monday, 4 September 2017 - 2:15pm
Event Info

The Director Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) Prof. Mahmood Mamdani cordially invites you to the PhD Public Defence

CANDIDATE: Mr. Yonas Ashine Demisse

THESIS TITLE: Prophets and Subjects of Development: Slavery,Civilization and State Formation in Ethiopia

SUPERVISOR: Prof. Mahmood Mamdani

OPPONENT / DISCUSSANT: Prof. Shamil Jeppie (University of Cape Town)

ABSTRACT: This dissertation links the ethos of developmentalism that informs the role of the modern state towards transforming society to ideas of popular social justice and related questions articulated in the context of pre­-modern state formation. Instead of the dominant historiographical assumptions of primordial and essentialized politics of "ethnicity" and feudal relation in premodern Africa, the research studies slavery as a power relation among multiple actors in the domestic and public realms to explain premodern political development.

Hence, this dissertation articulates the dialectical link between the politics of premodern state formation, the history of slavery and the politics of géta­-bareya relations which are defined broadly as relations between superior and subordinate including master­-slave, lord-servant, God-believers, and king-subject relations. The thesis is premises on the following three interrelated arguments. Firstly, I show how the legacy of the géta­-bareya, profane and sacred power relations shaped the modern political theology of state developmentalism. Developmentalism appears as a secularized but theological pastoral power relation, between the emperor as midwife of development and the commoner as the object of salvational action by the emperor. Secondly, I focus on the ruptures within the genealogical continuity of politics to show how the discourse, institution and materiality of development began to play a significant role in politics between the emperor and commoners. Thirdly, I argue that developmentalism and the politics it created have been a product of negotiation between the local and global dynamics involving translation, articulation, re­-articulation and negotiation. This negotiated discourse of developmentalism and the mode of politics it created exemplify a particular form of modernity.

The study depicts how the hegemonic discourse of development failed to depoliticize and to be effectively total and was instead appropriated as the mode of resistance, survival and alternative popular politics in twentieth century Ethiopia. Development, therefore, linked politics to the state and also opened possibilities for politics outside of the state creating a form of "political developmental community." The dissertation employs innovative multiple methodologies: combining conceptual, ethnographic, historical, historiographical, literary sources and archival work, putting them in conversation with each other and also subverting boundaries between these methodologies and sources.

For more details visit the MISR Website

Event Venue
Seminar Room 1, Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda
Category by Unit
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Contact Info
Contact Info: 
Eddie Ssemakula, Communications and Publications Coordinator, Makerere Institute of Social Research-MISR, Cell: +256-782-793020, Email; ssemakula.eddie[at]