Accepted paper:

Schooling people, schooling power in Ethiopia


Lorraine Towers (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

Formal schooling in Ethiopia has been central to the formation of state power through its cultivation of particular traditions in a diverse polity to the exclusion of others. These process will be explored through the oral histories of school experience of the marginalised from 1950s - 2000s.

Paper long abstract:

Schooling has an intimate relationship with colonialism, including in the country so often typified as having never been colonised - Ethiopia. The strategic deployment of formal schooling has been not only an exercise of state but critical to the historical generation and maintenance of varying forms of state power; imperial, socialist, and ostensibly democratic. This deployment has been predicated on the potential of schooling as the quintessential institution of modernity to both articulate and police forms of subject being and practice that derive from, and enhance, centralized power. However, this is not a simple historical account of a 'developing' country submitting or resisting 'western' European hegemony. Rather, it considers how schooling in Ethiopia has historically reified ways of being in a diverse polity that draw on particular traditions of the Ethiopian highlands as modern, urban, civilized and educated, excluding others as backward, rural, uncivilized and impervious to modern transformation. Drawing on oral histories of school experience of those considered antithetical to the materiality and promise of the modern, the Oromo peoples, it considers the changing nature of schooling policy and practice and the mediation of people, place and power from the 1950s to the 2000s. The contradictions of this schooling is manifest in the historical development of Oromo identities of resistance and ongoing contestation that seeks to claim power through the reconfiguration of the symbolic landscapes and embodied practices of modern schooling, affording both a closer proximity to the modern state and the capacities to make it their own.

panel His08
School education and the shaping of colonial and independent states and societies (19th century-1970)