African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 403

Full Length Research Paper

The politics of historying: A postmodern commentary on Bahru Zewde’s history of modern Ethiopia

Semir Yusuf    
Political Science and International Relations, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.  
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 22 August 2009
  •  Published: 30 September 2009


This short commentary poses a timely challenge to positivist historiography both at the theoretical and the practical levels. Theoretically, it challenges, but only implicitly, many of the assumptions of modernist, objectivist historiography in a number of ways. Perhaps more interestingly and directly, it faces up to the intellectual difficulties of some of the discourses about the history (ies) of Ethiopia. This it does by debunking a rightist nationalist discourse in Ethiopian historiography, indirectly leaving a call for doing the same with regards to the ethnonationalist one, as well as for even developing further both the theoretical assumptions and the scope of the discussion on Ethiopianist historiography. The paradigmatic affiliation gravitates towards post-modernism and the analytical tool used is what is termed as “hi/storying”, referring to the notable simultaneousness and inseparability of the processes of “telling” the hi/story and making it. All this is demonstrated just by directly and briefly assessing one renowned book on Ethiopia authored by a “doyen” of modern Ethiopian history.


Key words: hi/storying, hi/story-telling/making, essentialism, nationalist history, hi/story of the present.