International Journal of European Studies

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Emperor Tewodros II and the Antithesis Between Modernity and Tradition in Ethiopia

Received: 29 June 2022    Accepted: 27 July 2022    Published: 5 August 2022
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Abstract

In the western world, the genesis of modernity lies in the negation of custom, tradition and authority and in return the exercising of rationality that enlightens the world. Such a quest of the rational subject is believed to lead to a technical mastery of the environment. Modernity rests on the antithesis between tradition and modernity, where tradition is a seat of custom and conventional authority, and the idea of modernity signifies novelty and perfection. In the Ethiopian context, conventional views on modernity narrowly focus on instrumental rationality, economic development and imitation of western cultural values. Carrying out a thorough investigation of Ethiopia’s history reveals that there are many precursors to the Ethiopian discourse on modernity. Some are literary and artistic and others situated in visions of development and societal progress. One Ethiopian vision of modernity is found in the system of administration introduced by Emperor Tewodros II. Ending the era of the Zemene-Mesafint, the emperor laid the foundations for the modern Ethiopian state, in the process entering into a conflict with the church and established authority. This paper engages in a philosophical analysis of the notion of modernity to show how Emperor Tewodros II made lasting contributions to Ethiopia’s modernity by questioning the authority of the church, instituting a modern system of administration and trying to accelerate technical progress through the building of a military power as foundation to Ethiopia’s modernity.

DOI 10.11648/j.ijes.20220601.12
Published in International Journal of European Studies (Volume 6, Issue 1, June 2022)
Page(s) 5-11
Creative Commons

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, provided the original work is properly cited.

Copyright

Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Science Publishing Group

Keywords

Modernity, Eurocentrism, Westernization, Modernization

References
[1] Adejumobi, Saheed A. 2007, The History of Ethiopia, Greenwood Press, Connecticut, U.S.A.
[2] Andreas Eshete. 2012. “Modernity: It’s Title to Uniqueness and its Advent in Ethiopia”, in What is “Zemenawinet”?-Perspectives on Ethiopian Modernity, Fredrick Ebert Stiftung.
[3] Bahru, Zewde. 2002. Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia: The Reformist Intellectuals of the Early Twentieth Century, Addis Ababa University Press, Addis Ababa.
[4] BahruZewde. 2002. A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855-1991, Second Edition, Addis Ababa University Press, Addis Ababa.
[5] BahruZewde, 2008, The Challenge of the New Millennium: Renaissance or Reappraisal? International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 33-47, Tsehai Publishers.
[6] Cahoone, Lawrence. 2003 From Modernism to Postmodernism, an Anthology. U.S.A: Blackwell Publishing.
[7] Crummey, Donald, 2000, Ethiopia, Europe and Modernity: A Preliminary Sketch, International Journal of Ethiopian and Eritrean Studies, pp. 7-23.
[8] Eisenstadt, Shumel N., Sachsenmaier, Dominic andRiedel, Jens, 2002, Reflections on Multiple Modernities, European, Chinese and Other Interpretations, Brill, London.
[9] Eisenstadt, S. N., 2003, Comparative Civilizations and Multiple Modernities, Brill, London.
[10] Eze, Emmanuel Chukwudi, 1997, Postcolonial African Philosophy, a Critical Reader, U.S.A: Blackwell Publishers.
[11] Gebrehiwot Baykedagn. 2007. The Works of Gebrehiwot Baykedagn. AAU Printing Press, Addis Ababa.
[12] Giddens, Anthony, 1996, The Consequences of Modernity. United Kingdom, Polity Press.
[13] Habermas, Jürgen. 1984. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume One, Reason and The Rationalization of society, Trans-Thomas McCarthy. U.S.A: Beacon Press.
[14] Keller, Edmond J. 2005. Making and Remaking State and Nation in Ethiopia, in Ricardo Rene Laremont, ed, Borders, Nationalism, and the African State, Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner.
[15] Klinghoffer, Arthur Jay, 1973, Modernization and Political Development in Africa, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 1-19, Cambridge University Press.
[16] Levine, Donald N. 1974. Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of A Multiethnic Society, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
[17] Levine, Donald N., 2007, Ethiopia, Japan, and Jamaica: A Century of Globally Linked Modernizations, International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 41-51.
[18] Paulos, Milkias, 2008, Modernity, the Ethiopian Youth and the Challenge of the Third Millennium, International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Winter / Spring 2008), pp. 91-101, Tsehai Publishers.
[19] Thiongo, Ngugi. 1997, Decolonizing the mind: the politics of language in African literature, James Currey, London.
[20] Yonas Admassu, 2012. What Were They Writing About Anyway? Tradition and Modernization in Amharic Literature, in What is “Zemenawinet”?-Perspectives on Ethiopian Modernity, Fredrick Ebert Stiftung.
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  • APA Style

    Fasil Merawi Tessagaye. (2022). Emperor Tewodros II and the Antithesis Between Modernity and Tradition in Ethiopia. International Journal of European Studies, 6(1), 5-11. https://doi.org/10.11648/j.ijes.20220601.12

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    ACS Style

    Fasil Merawi Tessagaye. Emperor Tewodros II and the Antithesis Between Modernity and Tradition in Ethiopia. Int. J. Eur. Stud. 2022, 6(1), 5-11. doi: 10.11648/j.ijes.20220601.12

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    AMA Style

    Fasil Merawi Tessagaye. Emperor Tewodros II and the Antithesis Between Modernity and Tradition in Ethiopia. Int J Eur Stud. 2022;6(1):5-11. doi: 10.11648/j.ijes.20220601.12

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  • @article{10.11648/j.ijes.20220601.12,
      author = {Fasil Merawi Tessagaye},
      title = {Emperor Tewodros II and the Antithesis Between Modernity and Tradition in Ethiopia},
      journal = {International Journal of European Studies},
      volume = {6},
      number = {1},
      pages = {5-11},
      doi = {10.11648/j.ijes.20220601.12},
      url = {https://doi.org/10.11648/j.ijes.20220601.12},
      eprint = {https://article.sciencepublishinggroup.com/pdf/10.11648.j.ijes.20220601.12},
      abstract = {In the western world, the genesis of modernity lies in the negation of custom, tradition and authority and in return the exercising of rationality that enlightens the world. Such a quest of the rational subject is believed to lead to a technical mastery of the environment. Modernity rests on the antithesis between tradition and modernity, where tradition is a seat of custom and conventional authority, and the idea of modernity signifies novelty and perfection. In the Ethiopian context, conventional views on modernity narrowly focus on instrumental rationality, economic development and imitation of western cultural values. Carrying out a thorough investigation of Ethiopia’s history reveals that there are many precursors to the Ethiopian discourse on modernity. Some are literary and artistic and others situated in visions of development and societal progress. One Ethiopian vision of modernity is found in the system of administration introduced by Emperor Tewodros II. Ending the era of the Zemene-Mesafint, the emperor laid the foundations for the modern Ethiopian state, in the process entering into a conflict with the church and established authority. This paper engages in a philosophical analysis of the notion of modernity to show how Emperor Tewodros II made lasting contributions to Ethiopia’s modernity by questioning the authority of the church, instituting a modern system of administration and trying to accelerate technical progress through the building of a military power as foundation to Ethiopia’s modernity.},
     year = {2022}
    }
    

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Author Information
  • Department of Philosophy, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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