IAS Ethiopian Studies Series

IAS Ethiopian Studies Series

The IAS Ethiopian Studies Series is convened by Suzanne Akbari (IAS), Aaron Butts (CUA/IAS), Samantha L. Kelly (Rutgers U/IAS), Sabine Schmidtke (IAS)

November 17, 12:00-1:30 pm:  IAS Ethiopian Studies Series*The Beta Israel and Ethiopian Christian Views of Jews and Judaism. Panelists: Steven Kaplan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Sophia Dege-Müller (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Marcia Kupfer (Washington, DC), and Aaron Butts (Catholic University of America / Institute for Advanced Study). Moderator: Samantha L. Kelly (Rutgers University / Institute for Advanced Study). 

Ethiopia has a long and complex history with Jews and Judaism, distinguished in part by the existence of the Beta Israel, sometimes called “Ethiopian Jews,” who lived in northern and north-western Ethiopia until their large-scale emigration to Israel in the second half of the twentieth century. This webinar presents what is currently known about the Beta Israel and their origins, introduces new and ongoing research on the history of the community, explores how Ethiopian Christians have portrayed Jews and Judaism in art and text, and asks if connections can be drawn between Ethiopian Christian views of Judaism and the Beta Israel. The video recordings of this event can be seen here.

The Turn to the Medieval in Ethiopian Studies – The Turn to Ethiopia in Medieval Studies I and II

We are eager to think together about the rich and often challenging complexities that have arisen as a result of the intersection of Medieval Studies and Ethiopian Studies over the past several years. These fields developed along very different lines, but have begun to mutually enrich – and interrogate – one another. In terms of regional networks, the two fields overlap in their concern with political, commercial, and cultural connections in the eastern Mediterranean: while Ethiopia represents for Medieval Studies an outgrowth of Mediterranean Studies, extending investigation for such exchanges down the Red Sea, Europe similarly represents for Ethiopian Studies a secondary ring of this zone of contact. Each offers the other a rich comparative (and sometimes connected) context for the study of Christian culture, including monasticism, hagiography, manuscript studies, and art and architecture, and both have investigated interconfessional relations in ways that might be mutually illuminating. Finally, together they contribute to an exploration of what ‘medieval Africa’ might entail, and allow us to explore the potentialities of more integrated, even global approaches to the premodern world. Yet the enrichment that this intersection of fields provides may also be problematic, as the distinctive chronologies, nomenclatures, and scholarly traditions of Medieval Studies and Ethiopian Studies meet. As research on premodern Ethiopia has greatly expanded in recent decades, and as Medieval Studies manifests increasing interest in Ethiopia, these paired webinars seek to explore what is gained and what is lost by more intensive conversation between them.

February 19, 2021, 12:00-1:30 pm EST: The Turn to the Medieval in Ethiopian Studies – The Turn to Ethiopia in Medieval Studies I.  The video recordings for this event can be seen here.

Andrea Achi (Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum)
Marie-Laure Derat (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
Kristen Windmuller-Luna (Cleveland Museum of Art)
Felege-Selam Yirga (The University of Tennessee Knoxville)

March 19, 2021, 12:00-1:30 pm EST: The Turn to the Medieval in Ethiopian Studies – The Turn to Ethiopia in Medieval Studies II. The video recordings for this event can be seen here.

Alessandro Bausi (Universität Hamburg)
Verena B. Krebs (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
Eyob Derillo (The British Library)
Samantha L. Kelly (Rutgers and IAS)


May 20, 2021, 12:00-1:30 pm EST: Beyond Ethiopia: The Islamic Intellectual History of the Horn of Africa. 

Much progress has been made over the past decade in the study of Muslim Ethiopia, and with the ongoing work of digitizing, cataloguing and analyzing the local Muslim manuscript tradition, scholars are in a better position than ever before to assess the intellectual strands prevalent among the Muslims of Ethiopia at any given time in history. Our objective for the webinar is threefold: First, we would like to get a clearer picture of what still needs to be done in terms of salvaging and providing access to the Muslim manuscript tradition of Ethiopia (or Ethiopian provenance) — what are the challenges and what would be the promises? Secondly, we hope to engage in a discussion that will assess the intellectual traditions prevalent among Ethiopian Muslims, e.g. legal traditions, doctrinal stances, and other prevalent expressions of Islamic identity, throughout history. Thirdly, we intend to engage in a discussion that will situate the intellectual history of Muslim Ethiopia beyond its core region and discuss how it intersected over the centuries with other prevalent strands and developments, such as the Horn of Africa (including Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia), Southern Arabia (Yemen), as well as East Africa or even the Indian Ocean network. Lastly, we are eager to think together about where the study of Muslim Ethiopia stands within the larger picture of Ethiopian Studies.

Maria Bulakh (Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow)
Alessandro Gori (University of Copenhagen)
Hassen Muhammad Kawo (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Paul M. Love (Al Akhawayn University)
Anne Regourd (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris)