n Africa Insight - Configuring the 'body politic' : violence, political crimes, and justice in Ethiopia

Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


This analysis of the Ethiopian revolution of the 1970s is informed by Michel Foucault's notion of bio-power, and the forms and effects of punishment in the context of power relations. Arguing that the body is the articulating factor in political revolutions, the paper notes that political differences in Ethiopia have historically led to violent confrontation. For instance, during the political transformation in the late 1970s, Ethiopia witnessed perhaps one of the deadliest struggles for political power in its modern history. One manifestation of this power struggle was the pervasive political violence which caused the death of thousands of young Ethiopians in urban areas. The violence - both real and symbolic - of the Red Terror period is analysed, to show that the violence in the late 1970s has distinctive characteristics, both in its ideological justification, modus operandi, and political objectives. Attention is also given to the ongoing genocide trials, and their supposed distinction from the earlier period of violence.

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