PhD Public Defense

04 Feb, 2019,

The Director Makerere Institute of Social Research Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, cordially invites you to the PhD Public Defence of Ms. Netsanet Gebremichael Woldesenbet scheduled to take place on Friday 15th February, 2019 at 2:15pm. at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in Seminar Room 1.

Thesis title: “Topographies of Reminiscences: Asmara as Historical Representations and Deliberations.”

Supervisor: Professor Mahmood Mamdani - MISR

Opponent / Discussant: Professor Tekalign Wolde‑Mariam Gemechu - Asst. Professor of History, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Using reminiscing practices this dissertation examines and makes sense of historical ruptures as ontological sites. Drawing on “neither war nor peace” (1998-2016) moment of historico-political raptures between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the dissertation illustrates the nature of historical sensibilities that emerge from reminisces of Asmara-the capital city of Eritrea from Ethiopia in what appears to be a moment of rift. Particularly, the dissertation focuses on the moment of rift in the aftermath of the 1998 war to note how a relatively distant past of 1952-1975 Asmara is reminisced from 2014-2015 Ethiopia. It further illuminates the ontological realities that are captured through methodological insights gained from memory as a tool to make sense of rupture and continuity in history. Through foregrounding a context of non-movement, which offers one layer of the problem, the dissertation asks: what happens to conventional historical methods in a contemporary political context that dictates and limits how history can be studied?  In so doing this research illuminate sensibilities of historical reconstruction embedded in the notion of memory- and remembering. It then opens methodological possibilities on how history can be done in moments of rift which in turn interrogates the underlying assumption that the study of history is impossible in moments of rift.

By mobilizing productions and reminisces in forms of oral–accounts with popular cultural productions such as autobiographies, memoirs, songs, novels and poetry produced on the subject- Asmara the dissertation asserts that practices of reminiscing constitute historical sensibilities that involve representing, circulating and deliberating the past. In so doing, it demonstrates that reminisces recover the past from the vantage point of representing it from that which remains in the form of life story, archives, objects. At the same time, reminiscing is engaged in the circulation of the past through creative interventions in forms of songs, novels, poetry, and memoirs and self-writing. The examination of reminiscing practices, therefore, shows that the ways in which the past is represented and circulated are deliberative accounts of the present through using past reminisces. In this case, reminiscing is not an exercise of recovering an objective truth about the past, but rather of engaging in the production of history by representing, circulating and deliberating on the past.