The politics and materiality of a developmental state in the EPRDF’s Ethiopia – A view from the gibe III hydropower development project

Friday November 22, at 2pm – Université Paris-Nanterre, Bâtiment Rémond, Salle A304

Jury composition:
  • David Blanchon, université de Paris Nanterre, Professor (supervisor)
  • Bernard Calas, Université Bordeaux 3, Professor
  • Muller Mahn, Bonn Universität, Professor
  • Alula Pankhurst, Oxford University, Associate professor
  • Sabine Planel, IRD, Researcher (co-supervisor)

Abstract: The EPRDF-led regime, since the turn of the new millennium, has been conducting a series of operations that seek to achieve a key government objective: its self-declared democratic developmental state. However, the literature on this issue has been dominated by technocratic and macro-intuitionalist analyses. There has been, surprisingly, little in- depth qualitative research on its materiality, concrete mechanisms at work and multiscaled effects. This thesis, inspired by political explanations, tries to understand the notion and materialization of the democratic developmentalism in the context of ethno-federal model of governance by using the Gibe III hydropower project as a case study. To this end, it opted for grounded empirical research approach that focuses on materiality and everyday state practices from multi-scalar perspectives. A qualitative case study design was employed, which is a product of 18 months of fieldwork conducted both at national and sub-national scales. The analysis points at complexity of the processes regarding the materiality of a developmental state-making in the Omo Valley: on the one hand the central government increases its capacity of resource control and extraction in this periphery, within a federal republic, as “developmental state effects” and garners performance legitimacy through delivering the dam [“development”]-at least at the national scale; on the other hand increasingly an authoritarian form it takes in this process and lack of recognition of the affected peoples’ claims and their growing dispersed resistances seemingly jeopardizes its political legitimacy. Thus, this study highlighted how the ruling regime strengthens its grip on power in this periphery under the banner of state- developmentalism and at the same time, how this grip on power is not without limits too.

Edegilign Hailu Woldegabrael is a PhD candidate at Paris-Nanterre University affiliated to the CFEE.




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