The Spatial Imagination of Oromia:

The Ethiopian State and Oromo Transnational Politics.


Bas van Heur

Park 27, 6093 EM, Heythuysen


Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History
(Doctoraalscriptie Taal- en Cultuurstudies – Specialisatie Cultuurgeschiedenis vanaf de Verlichting)
at the Faculty of Arts, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Academiejaar: 2003-2004

First Supervisor:
Dr. habil. Achim von Oppen
Centre for Modern Oriental Studies
Kirchweg 33
14129, Berlin, Germany

Second Supervisor:
Dr. Rosemarie Buikema
Faculty of Arts, Utrecht University
Kromme Nieuwegracht 29
3512 HD, Utrecht, the Netherlands


On the one hand, one […] relates oneself to space, situates oneself in space. One confronts both an immediacy and an objectivity of one’s own. One places oneself at the centre, designates oneself, measures oneself, and uses oneself as a measure. One is, in short, a subject.

On the other hand, space serves an intermediary or mediating role: beyond each plane surface, beyond each opaque form, ‘one’ seeks to apprehend something else.

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (1991, 182-83)


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A Note on Ethiopian Words and Names

Acronyms and Abbreviations



I. Introduction

     I.1 Theme and Thesis     

     I.2 Previous Research     

     I.3 Organization of the Text    


Theorizing Spatial Imaginations    


II. Region, Place and Locale     

     II.1 The Region as an Analytical Concept of Order and Clarity

     II.2 Traditional Regional Geography   

     II.3 Humanistic Geography and the Experience of Place 

     II.4 The Concept of Locale and the Container of the State 


III. Space and Scale       

     III.1 The Production of Space and the Question of Positionality

     III.2 A Situated Concept of Space    

     III.3 The Political Construction of Scale and Spatializing the State

     III.4 Summary      


Oromia, the OLF and the Ethiopian State   


IV. The Center, its Peripheries and Spatial Imaginations  

     IV.1 The Internationalization of the Scale of the State 

     IV.2 Centralization and Territorial Expansionism  

     IV.3 The Production of Spatial Imaginations  


V. The Production of Oromia and the Re-Writing of History 

     V.1 Addis Ababa as a Site of Privilege   

     V.2 Transnational Practices and the Spatial Imagination of Oromia

     V.3 Re-Scaling the Bale Rebellion: Positionality and Power


VI. Imagining Oromia Between the State and the Diaspora 

     VI.1 Homogenizing the Center    

     VI.2 The Struggle from the Sudan-Ethiopia Borderlands 

     VI.3 The Spatial Imagination of Oromia as a Strategy of Extraversion


VII. The Global Players of Oromo Ethnicity   

     VII.1 The Ethiopian State and the Region of Oromia 

     VII.2 The Lack of Common Ground between Diaspora and Homeland

     VII.3 Global Connections and the Promotion of the OLF 

     VII.4 Diasporic Imaginations and Ethiopian Practices 


VIII. Conclusion       


Works Cited        



Declaration of Originality


To the best of my knowledge, this thesis contains no copy or paraphrase of work published by another person, except where duly acknowledged in the text. This thesis contains no material which has been presented for a degree at the University of Utrecht or any other university.


Berlin, Germany, March 25, 2004

                                                                                                          (Bas van Heur)


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