Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia

Monarchy, Revolution and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi

Edited by
September 2015 9781849042611 416pp
Temporarily out of stock
Available as an eBook
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When we think of Ethiopia we tend to think in cliches: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the Falasha Jews, the epic reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Communist Revolution, famine and civil war. Among the countries of Africa it has a high profile yet is poorly known. However all cliches contain within them a kernel of truth, and occlude much more. Today’s Ethiopia (and its painfully liberated sister state of Eritrea) are largely obscured by these mythical views and a secondary literature that is partial or propagandist. Moreover there have been few attempts to offer readers a comprehensive overview of the country’s recent history, politics and culture that goes beyond the usual guidebook fare. Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia seeks to do just that, presenting a measured, detailed and systematic analysis of the main features of this unique country, now building on the foundations of a magical and tumultuous past as it struggles to emerge in the modern world on its own terms.

Table of contents

Gérard Prunier and Éloi Ficquet

1. Ethiopians in the Twenty-First Century: The Structure and Transformation of the Population
Éloi Ficquet and Dereje Feyissa

2. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) and the Challenges of Modernity
Stéphane Ancel and Éloi Ficquet
3. The Ethiopian Muslims: Historical Processes and Ongoing Controversies
Éloi Ficquet
4. GO Pente! The Charismatic Renewal of the Evangelical Movement in Ethiopia
Emanuele Fantini
5. From Pan-Africanism to Rastafari: African American and Caribbean ‘Returns’ to Ethiopia
Giulia Bonacci
6. Monarchical Restoration and Territorial Expansion: The Ethiopian State in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century
Shiferaw Bekele

7. The Era of Haile Selassie
Christopher Clapham

8. The Ethiopian Revolution and the Derg Regime
Gérard Prunier

9. The Eritrean Question
Gérard Prunier

10. The Tigray People’a Liberation Front (TPLF)
Medhane Tadesse

11. Federalism, Revolutionary Democracy and the Developmental State, 1991–2012
Sarah Vaughan
12. Elections and Politics in Ethiopia Since 2005
Patrick Gilkes

13. Making Sense of Ethiopia’s Regional Influence
Medhane Tadesse

14. The Ethiopian Economy: The Developmental State vs. the Free Market
René Lefort

15. Addis Ababa and the Urban Renewal in Ethiopia
Perrine Duroyaume

16. The Meles Zenawi Era: From Revolutionary Marxism to State Developmentalism
Gérard Prunier


‘Prunier and Ficquet in Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia aim to present a “wide-angle snapshot” of one country by bringing together a diverse range of authors to explain it on its own terms. The book includes thorough, detailed and highly contextual studies of Ethiopian history, politics, religions and economics.’ – The Times Literary Supplement

Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia is an impressive volume, one which contains a wealth of information on the historical, cultural and religious underpinnings of the landlocked country in the Horn of Africa … The editors have assembled an impressive series of contributions’ — Nick Branson, LSE Review of Books

‘This volume on all things Ethiopian by a group of noted experts is a tour de force. Focussing on the nature of power in Ethiopian state and society, the contributors provide powerful and provocative accounts that chart the process of rapid societal change as Ethiopia assumes its place as a rising regional power. In doing so they uncover a new model of economic development and state-building, pointing to the importance of the Ethiopian state in conditioning violence, social change and economic accumulation. A must-read.’ — Will Reno, Professor, Director of the Program of African Studies, Northwestern University

‘Ethiopia can no longer be caricatured or mythologised. No one could have envisioned the extent to which this country would be transformed nearly twenty-five years after the end of its long civil war. To help us make sense of the dynamics shaping contemporary Ethiopia, this much-needed volume brings together important insights from the world’s most notable experts on the country’s culture, history, politics, and society. They offer a comprehensive and accessible account that should be widely read.’ — Leonardo R. Arriola, University of California, Berkeley



Gérard Prunier is a renowned historian of contemporary Africa, author of, inter alia, the acclaimed The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide and of The Country That Does Not Exist: A History of Somaliland, both published by Hurst.  

Éloi Ficquet is an anthropologist and historian, professor at the EHESS, and Director of the French Center for Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. He is the author of A French-Amharic Dictionary and of many articles on Ethiopian history and culture.

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