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Ethiopian heritage in the making

As shown by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed 2018’s announcements about Lalibela site, or by the Addis Ababa palaces opening to the public, cultural heritage plays a central role as a cultural policy in Ethiopia. Ubiquitous in communication policy of the Federal State, regions, and towns, the promotion and protection of heritage now mobilises many professionals at different scales (civil servants, travel agencies, guides, etc.). What is at stake is mainly the economic dimension : the idea is to promote the cultural diversity and the historical and geographical wealth of the country in order to make marginal regions accessible and to support the country’s development. Ethiopia wants to prove itself as the most visited African touristic destination (as a country that has the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites). With the concept for ‘intangible heritage’, all sorts of things can ‘be part of heritage’. The political issue also matters a lot : in a context of community and ethnic tensions, cultural heritage is considered as a national unity conveyor, as well as a subject of identity appropriation.

The CFEE is often working hand in hand with Ethiopian institutions to elaborate cultural heritage promotion policies. Interdisciplinary researches supported by the CFEE deal with :

 The development of institutions in charge of the making of cultural heritage in Ethiopia (including the university training of employees working in this field). This development is linked to the appropriation of the notion of cultural heritage and related discourses, but it is reminiscent of ancient religious institutions and State practices ;

 Local demands and appropriations related to the notion of heritage in Ethiopia related to the construction of the Nation-State (the ‘sense of heritage’ of the country’s elite) and ethno-regional federalism encouraging the process of ‘heritage and museum making’ of cultural items (music, architecture, cooking, languages, etc.) ;

 The consequences of ‘heritage making’ policies, both for the actors carrying them and for the populations that are directly concerned by them, thus rethinking the relations between the elites and other social groups as well as between the State, regions, and the society, and so on ;

 The relationships of Ethiopia with the rest of the world, in particular with international organisations and relevant companies working in this field, where Ethiopians and more and more present, as well as with France in the context of the post-Ouagadougou and ‘restitutions’ discussions.


Follow the news of this research program on the blog of the CFEE

Funded research programmes

 ANR EthioMap : Cartographic sources and territorial transformations of Ethiopia since the late 18th century

 ANR PANSER - Southern natural heritage : a small-scale global history

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