Modernisation from the shadows: Conspiracy, monasticism and techno-utopia in the Amharic novel Dertogada

Sara Marzagora*, Tom Boylston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The Amharic novel Dertogada (2009) was a smash hit in Ethiopia, launching Yismake Worku’s career as one of the most popular Amharic writers of the last decade. This paper explores Dertogada’s huge cultural influence by tracing its unique synthesis between the Amharic literary tradition, American spy thrillers and conspiracy novels, and postcolonial critique. Dertogada is a projection into the future of a series of questions about modernisation and the Ethiopian state that preoccupied Amharic authors throughout the twentieth century. We suggest that the conspiracy novel provides a model for connecting a technologically advanced surveillance state with an older, sacralised notion of the state based on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is the very movement between techno-utopia and ancient religious wisdom, we argue, that lends the novel its particular popular nationalist impetus.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEastern African Literary and Cultural Studies
Early online date17 Sept 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Sept 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Amharic literature
  • conspiracy novel
  • Ethiofuturism
  • Ethiopian nationalism
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Church
  • modernity
  • monasticism
  • postcolonialism
  • technological utopia
  • wax and gold


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