Institute of African Studies - Columbia University

Faculty Spotlight: Elleni Centime Zeleke

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

 

We recently caught up with Elleni Centime Zeleke, an Assistant Professor in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia. Professor Zeleke teaches courses on the Horn of Africa, African Political Thought, Critical Theory, and Histories of Capitalism. Below is the transcript from our interview. 

 

What drives your research?

I am interested in how how the tools used to study Africa become part of constituting the object we come to know as Africa.

What excites you about your most recent work?

I have recently completed a book manuscript entitled Ethiopia in Theory: Revolution and Knowledge Production,1964-2016, In this book I examine how the very categories used to study the Ethiopian revolution also became part of the revolutionary process in Ethiopia. From there, I try to build my own method for thinking and talking about revolution in Ethiopia and Africa. This makes my work a mix of different genres of writing, from memoir to political theory. I am excited by the necessarily cross-disciplinary nature of my work.

What do you think is missing or underdeveloped in scholarship on Africa?

When I was a graduate student I always felt that the field of African studies was uninterested in teaching a black African woman how to think about Africa. By this I mean that African studies has not yet developed a set of methods, questions or even a writing style that could account for the experiences of women of African descent who wish to think about their own lives in a deep and complicated way.“When I was a graduate student I always felt that the field of African studies was uninterested in teaching a black African woman how to think about Africa. By this I mean that African studies has not yet developed a set of methods, questions or even a writing style that could account for the experiences of women of African descent who wish to think about their own lives in a deep and complicated way.

Elleni Centime Zeleke received her Ph.D. from the Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought at York University (Toronto) in 2016. Zeleke's forthcoming book, Ethiopia in Theory: Revolution and Knowledge Production,1964-2016, will be published by the Historical-Materialism Book Series at Brill in the fall of 2019. A paperback version will also be published by Haymarket Books in 2020. Zeleke's work has also appeared in the Journal of NorthEast African Studies and Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters.