HIST 1453 FWS: In Search of Ethiopia; History, Myth and Politics
Tuesday and Thursday: 10:10-11:25
Professor Judith Byfield
Ethiopia, one of the oldest states in Africa, has a rich history that is often enveloped in myths and legends. Home to a number of ethnic and religious communities, Ethiopia’s political geography changed as new dynasties came to the forefront. Each new dynasty offered its own creation myth that legitimated its power and control over other communities. Ethiopia’s colorful and dynamic history has helped nurture the political aspirations of many beyond its boundaries. Christian chroniclers claimed it as the home of the Queen of Sheba. Continental Africans and Africans in the diaspora celebrated it as a symbol of African achievement and a beacon of independence because it was the only indigenous African state to retain its independence following Europe’s division of Africa in the nineteenth century. The name of Ethiopia’s last emperor before he assumed the throne, Ras Tafari, helped launch a new religion – Rastafarism. This course juxtaposes Ethiopian history against the myths and legends that shaped Ethiopia and gave rise to Ethiopianism, a complex array of cultural, religious, and political movements in other parts of Africa as well as the African diaspora.