Dr Izabela Orlowska

ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2019

Dr Izabela Orlowska

ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2019

ISRF Izabela Orlowska

Izabela is a passionate Ethiopianist who has lived and worked in the country for extensive periods of time. She studied Ethiopian languages and cultures in her native Poland at the Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Warsaw. In 2006 she earned her PhD in African History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. In the same year she has won a prestigious British Academy post-doctoral fellowship to continue her work on the symbolism of power in Ethiopian history at the University of Edinburgh (2006-9). While working on this project she developed her interest in visuals ranging from the unique aesthetics of the Ethiopian church paintings to political posters. Since then she has conducted numerous research projects (British Academy, National Science Foundation U.S, Alexandra von Humboldt) in Ethiopia and Europe and held a position at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. During her research she has interviewed elders, collected oral histories and discovered unpublished manuscripts in rural churches.

While working at Addis Ababa University she taught BA and MA students and developed lasting relationships with local academia, western research institutes (French and German) and the local art scene. Living, working and researching in Africa has made her passionate about showing how tackling many of the world’s development challenges requires serious consideration of local cultures, religious practices, histories and societal norms and an understanding of how such norms are different from those in the western context.

Ethnicity, Conflict and
Festivalisation of Politics in Ethiopia

This study proposes to explore the connection between ethnicity, heritage management and conflict in Ethiopia. Ethnic federalism was established in Ethiopia the early 1990s as an attempt to deal with historic hegemony of certain groups and marginalisation of others. It provided a framework for the multiethnic state to fit the global rhetoric on ethnic equality. Ethiopian ethic federation conceptualises the nation as nations, nationalities and peoples with equal rights to self-determination.

The focus on ethnicity and diversity has triggered new interest in heritage of the diverse ethnic groups comprising Ethiopia of today. The federal government has appropriated heritage of different groups by drawing on the past and by encouraging celebration of what has been labeled as ‘authentic’ cultural expressions. Festivities associated with specific ethnic groups have been encouraged, reinvented and appropriated, such as e.g. the Oromo irricha ritual or the Chumbalala celebration of the Sidama.

Despite the attempts at nation building and the official rhetoric of ‘unity in diversity’, Ethiopia has recently experiencing outbreaks of ethnic conflict. Research has shown that the federal arrangement has in fact intensified ethnic conflict (Abbink 2006).

This project proposes a closer look at the complex processes and different ways in which social groups create, convey and experience their cultures and the ways in which social groups interact and experience tensions often mobilised by regimes in the processes of identity formation, inclusion and exclusion. The proposed study has a potential to shed light at the unexplored complexities and triggers of conflict in this part of the Horn of Africa.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].