The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory against European Colonialism

The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory against European Colonialism

The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory against European Colonialism

The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory against European Colonialism

Excerpt

If Adwa holds a significant place in Africa’s history, it is because its meanings overflow the social and political conditions that made it possible and go beyond any relevance to its initial circumstances. The success at Adwa throws light on the normative dimensions of Ethiopian civilization; it challenges the demeaning Western conception of African cultures; it demonstrates that being targeted for colonization is not a prelude to fatality and that colonialism can be defeated; and, to Africans, it poses new political questions and sets novel historical tasks.

Interpreting such a momentous event inevitably raises formidable questions, both methodological and theoretical. However, the examination of these questions is not the primary objective of this collection. Rather, the texts assembled here explore the significance of the meanings that transcend Adwa and make it the watershed that marks Africa’s, and particularly traditional Ethiopia’s, entrance into the modern age.

Adwa is incontestably a complex nexus of events and narrations. It is said that each age writes its own history, not so much as to understand the past (though this certainly is an important objective) but to understand also how and why — of all the possible futures that the past could have given rise to — a particular future has become the concrete present we now inhabit. Contemporary Africa is dominated by ethnic politics and our quest to understand Adwa arises from a profound uneasiness with this present condition.

Ethiopians in particular are now embroiled in ethnic politics more than a century after a victory that was seen by many as the conclusive proof of the existence of an Ethiopian nation free from the kind of ethnic conflicts that char-

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