Book presentation – Developing Heritage – Developing Countries

BOOK PRESENTATION

Developing Heritage – Developing Countries

Ethiopian Nation-Building and the Origins of UNESCO World Heritage, 1960–1980

Friday 13th January, 10 AM

@ CFEE – French Center for Ethiopian Studies, Berhanu Abebe Library

In the presence of the author Marie Huber (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, DFG Priority Programme 1859) and discussed by Guillaume Blanc (Assitant Professor, Rennes 2 University, IUF, CFEE).

 

Marie Huber researches the history of development and nation building in Africa from a global history perspective as well as the transnational emergence and circulation of knowledge and the development of economic expectations. In her Ph.D. project Marie looked at the Ethiopian example to examine the execution of the World Heritage Convention in developing countries.

Her current DFG-funded project is focusing on the business histories of the west-African airline “Air Afrique” and Ethiopian Airlines. The project connects insights from postcolonial political history with an economic history approach. As part of the Priority Programme “Experience & Expectation – Historical Foundations of Economic Behaviour” she analyses, what functions the airlines fulfilled during the formation and modernisation of the nation states in the decolonisation period and what external events and instructions had influenced the entrepreneurial actions and decisions. In April 2022 she started investigating economic relations of German companies with Africa and Asia after 1950, as a member of the subproject on foreign trade securitisation in the framework of the research cluster SFB/TRR 138 “Dynamics of Security”.

Summary of Marie Huber’s book, accessible online here

Book cover: Pavilion of Ethiopia at Expo ’67 © Benjamin News, 1967.

The history of development has paid only little attention to cultural projects. This book looks at the development politics that shaped the UNESCO World Heritage programme, with a case study of Ethiopian World Heritage sites from the 1960s to the 1980s. In a large-scale conservation and tourism planning project, selected sites were set up and promoted as images of the Ethiopian nation. This story serves to illustrate UNESCO’s role in constructing a “useful past” in many African countries engaged in the process of nation-building. UNESCO experts and Ethiopian elites had a shared interest in producing a portfolio of antiquities and national parks to underwrite Ethiopia’s imperial claims to regional hegemony with ancient history. The key findings of this book highlight a continuity in Ethiopian history, despite the political ruptures caused by the 1974 revolution and UNESCO’s transformation from knowledge producer to actual provider of development policies. The particular focus on the bureaucratic and political practices of heritage, bridges a gap between cultural heritage studies and the history of international organisations. The result is a first study of the global discourse on heritage as it emerged in the 1960s development decade.

 

The presentation discutant is Guillaume Blanc, Lecturer in Contemporary History at Rennes 2 University, whose research are focusing on global government of humans and human nature, in contemporary Africa in general, and in Ethiopia in particular. He is a junior member of the Institut universitaire de France.

His bestseller book has been recently published in english: The invention of Green Colonialism, Polity Press, 2022.

 


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