© 2019

Memory from the Margins

Ethiopia’s Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum


Part of the Memory Politics and Transitional Justice book series (MPTJ)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Bridget Conley
    Pages 1-46
  3. Bridget Conley
    Pages 47-84
  4. Bridget Conley
    Pages 85-132
  5. Bridget Conley
    Pages 133-168
  6. Bridget Conley
    Pages 217-239
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 241-244

About this book


This book asks the question: what is the role of memory during a political transition? Drawing on Ethiopian history, transitional justice, and scholarly fields concerned with memory, museums and trauma, the author reveals a complex picture of global, transnational, national and local forces as they converge in the story of the creation and continued life of one modest museum in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa—the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum. It is a study from multiple margins: neither the case of Ethiopia nor memorialization is central to transitional justice discourse, and within Ethiopia, the history of the Red Terror is sidelined in contemporary politics. From these nested margins, traumatic memory emerges as an ambiguous social and political force. The contributions, meaning and limitations of memory emerge at the point of discrete interactions between memory advocates, survivor-docents and visitors. Memory from the margins is revealed as powerful for how it disrupts, not builds, new forms of community. 

Bridget Conley is Research Director of the World Peace Foundation at The Fletcher School, USA. She was previously Research Director for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience. 


memory memorials museums Ethiopia marginality mass violence

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.World Peace Foundation at The Fletcher SchoolSomervilleUSA

About the authors

Bridget Conley is Research Director of the World Peace Foundation at The Fletcher School, USA. She was previously Research Director for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience. 

Bibliographic information


“Bridget Conley’s study of the Ethiopian museum of the Red Terror of 1976-1978 shows powerfully how the voice of those on the margins of political life can create a memorial space which destabilizes the present and gestures towards a less violent future.  Memory does not heal, she shows; it disturbs us and reminds us that nothing in our world is fixed in stone. Here is a stunning work of compassionate scholarship, arising from the author's engagement with ordinary men and women and the terrifying memories of their past.” (Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University, USA)

“The Ethiopian Red Terror is the most significant and least studied atrocity of late twentieth century Africa. This book is the essential work on its memorialization.” (Alex de Waal, World Peace Foundation, Tufts University, USA)

“Bridget Conley's study is a valuable addition to the literature on memory after violence not only because it addresses a context and subject that have been little discussed before, but because it does so in a way that integrates a deep theoretical reflection with empirical data and an engagement with transitional justice, memory studies and trauma to discuss the challenges and possibilities of memorial museums.” (Simon Robbins, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, UK)

“In this exploration of the forces that have shaped contemporary meanings of Ethiopia's Red Terror, Bridget Connelly brings to international attention the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum while sensitively observing the ambiguities of memory for survivors, communities, and nations that are grappling with a violent past.” (Paige Arthur, Deputy Director, New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, USA)

“Bridget Conley’s work on the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum re-inserts Ethiopia’s Red Terror trials into the global discussion on the murky, often contradictory literature on transitional justice; moreover, it offers groundbreaking research on the ways in which victim memorials are perceived by the creators, interpreters and visitors and how they trigger varied visceral responses and rouses both old and new memories.  A must read for those interested in the relationship between memory and history.” (Charles Schaefer, Department of International Studies, Valparaiso University, USA)

Memory from the Margins is a well-researched and original work that presents the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum as both a reflection of international commemorative trends and a uniquely Ethiopian institution, contributing to our understanding of how local and national transitional justice and memory projects intersect with global norms and transnational forms of commemoration.” (Amy Sodaro, Department of Social Sciences, Borough of Manhattan Community College/City University of New York, USA)