Illusions of Change? A Cultural History of Progress in
Dr. Izabela Orlowska
This project investigates how progress has been understood, imagined and represented by ideologies of Ethiopian regimes, after the collapse of the monarchy in 1974. While the political culture of Ethiopian pre-industrial society was entirely embedded in its social practice, now it operates within a globally dominant political system. This project intends to examine the tension between global trends and locally established structures of power. Its hypothesis is that the deeply rooted socio-cultural patterns of behaviour continue to leave their imprints on politics and the understanding of progress and development. The project addresses questions such as: how have been the ideas of progress represented in official state rhetorics (in text and in speech) and its iconography? Who is being addressed and who is represented as agents of progress (e.g. the revolutionary, the party, the people or the leader)? Based on the assumption that symbols in order to be effective need to refer to a familiar stock of imagery, I ask if the indigenous symbolic repertoire is incorporated. Or has the globally recognised concepts become indigenised, if so how? What external images and notions of progress are incorporated and why? How did the tension between the external forces (ideologies) and the local specificity of power express itself?