[IN]FORMAL: Fascism + Everyday in the Merkato



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



"By contrast, the idea of accumulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place, this whole idea belongs to our modernity." -Michel Foucault Foucault argues that the accumulation of historical archives creates a "heterotopia," removed from itself, existing outside of time, a space contradictory and incompatible to its surroundings. These elements create a distinctly Ethiopian culture, specifically in Addis Ababa; a space removed from its time, in the past, in the present, a combination of cultural and temporal experience. The Italian conquest of Ethiopia sought to apply a rationalist organization to Addis Ababa, grounded in a focus on new history making, ignoring the existing historical implications and conditions of the heterotopic context. The resulting modernist structures and planning abandoned in the city exist out of place in the sprawling, organic figure ground of Addis Ababa yet are absorbed seamlessly into everyday life. This thesis revisits the fascist plan of the Mercato neighborhood of Addis Ababa, proposing the resulting informal reality of the formal plan creates a heterotopia that is uniquely Ethiopian. Tensions between Christianity and Islam created a substantial population of traveling merchants while the Italian conquest of Ethiopia sought to apply a rationalist organization to Addis Ababa, ignoring existing historical implications. These foreign influences in Ethiopia created a heterotopic landscape in Merkato -- the open-air market of Addis Ababa -- that ignores the intent of the fascist plan it inhabits. Today, Chinese investors influencing the Ethiopian government to increase development and regulation in this regional market hub are met with heavy resistance by its residents as proposed developments continually ignore Merkato's history. Foreign investors should rather develop projects that implement new technologies to evolve the traditions of making and self-sufficiency to remain relevant as the national economy shifts away from its reliance on coffee exports toward production of manufactured goods. The expertise of China as a global leader in manufacturing and fabrication instead can provide a positive example for the future of Merkato.