This a rerun of a tongue in cheek piece I wrote a while ago – Happy Jubilee to the institute of Ethiopian Studies!
On the campus of the University of Addis Ababa, lies in the old palace the excellent and informative Ethnographical Museum with its well thought out displays, and the Library of Ethiopian Studies, a place where, if it talks of Ethiopia, you should find it.
From A for Alvarez’ tales of Prester John, to Z for Zervos and his ‘Le Mirroir de l’Ethiopie Moderne,’ by way of P for Pankhurst and his innumerable monographs – some have indeed suggested that Ethiopian Studies be defined as ‘anything that Professor Pankhurst has written about or has written a preface to,’ but, surely, they cannot have been serious. And if humour was intended, it certainly remains a compliment to the man himself and the professor’s encyclopaedic knowledge of and writing upon, aethiopica. Be it as it is, in the Institute of Ethiopian Studies all Abyssinian and Ethiopian topics, however bizarre, can be unearthed.
Now, what exactly are ‘Ethiopian Studies?’ I am not quite sure, except that it must be the study of all things Ethiopian. What I do know, is that there could not possibly be a regular conference entitled ‘Burkina Faso studies,’ or indeed, a conference on ‘South African Studies.’ Peace be upon the Land of Integrity and the southern behemoth, but they just wouldn’t warrant a regular come together of scientists, researchers and writers from all over the world to discuss in any number of fields the current work on their country.
“Some have indeed suggested that Ethiopian Studies be defined as ‘anything that Professor Pankhurst has written about or has written a preface to,’ but, surely, they cannot have been serious. And if humour was intended, it certainly remains a compliment to the man himself and the professor’s encyclopaedic knowledge of and writing upon, aethiopica.”
Could there be such a thing as English Studies, and if there were, what would they cover? – The Emergence of the English Breakfast, and The Spread of the Use of Toast in Victorian Times? French Studies should certainly not exist: it would make them even vainer than they already are.
But, as Galileo is rumored to have exclaimed upon his condemnation by the church for his cosmological work: ‘But she turns!’ -speaking of the Earth’s orbit through space, and letting it be known that eternal truths would prevail come what may. And Ethiopian Studies do most certainly exist, of that I am sure. In fact, Ethiopian Studies are so healthy that I suggest the creation of a new field of studies: The study of what constitutes or not eligibility to be a part of Ethiopian studies.
But, the truth be told, like an Englishman poking fun at the Queen – Heavens! – I’m a great believer in Ethiopian Studies myself – whatever they may be – and a card holder of the Society of Friends of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies.
And notice that I did use the word believer – could there be such a thing as a ‘believer in English Studies?”
You can also read here our post about the Dira Dawa reunion of the Ethiophile sect a year ago.