SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Dr Sara Marzagora

BA, MA (University of Milan); MA, PhD (SOAS, University of London)
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Sara Marzagora
Dr Sara Marzagora
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Dr Sara Marzagora is a cultural and intellectual historian of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. She is currently completing her book manuscript, provisionally titled The True Meaning of Independence: Ethiopian Intellectuals in a Colonial World (1901-1945). She holds a PhD from SOAS (passed without corrections) on how Amharic-language intellectuals in the first half of the twentieth century debated notions of modernity, colonialism and cultural alterity. Her work on Ethiopian nationalist thought and Ethiopian conceptions of history has been published in the Journal of African History and is forthcoming in Global Intellectual History.

Her work focuses on conceptualisations of the “global”, both in terms of its historical genealogies and as a theoretical attempt to subvert Eurocentric and neocolonial epistemologies. She has written about the potential and limitations of the “transnational turn” in the humanities from the point of view of three interrelated disciplines: intellectual history, literature and political thought.

Within intellectual history, she has a long-standing interest in the comparative history of print cultures. She is a member of the Postcolonial Print Cultures International Research Network and has been a contributor to the project Print Media in the Colonial World. She has taken part in a number of conferences that aimed at revisiting the diffusionist centre-periphery model typical of much intellectual history and that called for a historical mapping of South-South intellectual connections. Within this framework, she has conducted research and published on the role of the Japanese model in Ethiopian intellectual history in the 1930s.

Within literary studies, she is the leader of the Horn of Africa strand of the MULOSIGE research project (Multilingual Locals, Significant Geographies). She has published single-authored and jointly-authored articles on world literature theory, proposing methodologies that counter the teleological and modernist biases of canonical accounts of world literature. She has edited a special issue of the Journal of African Cultural Studies charting new disciplinary approaches to the study of literatures in African languages, and co-edited (with her MULOSIGE colleagues Francesca Orsini and Karima Laachir) a special issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East on multilingual literary cultures in the precolonial period.

Within the study of political thought, for the past two years she has contributed to the Central European University project Narratives of Order: Rethinking Global Political Thought, which has brought together historians and political theorists. She is currently involved in a collaborative project led by Hartmut Behr and Felix Rösch on the transnational co-constitution of political ideas of community in the twentieth century, whose main output will be an edited volume for Palgrave Macmillan’s Global Political Thinkers series.

For the past years Sara has convened the SOAS MA in Cultural Studies, lecturing on critical theory, global theories of modernity, and the history of colonial and anticolonial political thought. She won runner-up for the 2018 Director’s Teaching Prize for Innovative Teaching. She has held research affiliations at Northwestern University, ZMO (Centre of Modern Oriental Studies), Addis Ababa University, the City University of New York, and Rhodes University. Before starting her postdoctoral position at SOAS, she worked for a year as Research Fellow at the University of Oxford.



Global intellectual history, cultural and intellectual history of the Horn of Africa, Ethiopian history and political thought


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Available for
Regional Expertise
  • Africa
Country Expertise
  • Ethiopia
  • Amharic



Orsini, Francesca and Marzagora, Sara and Laachir, Karima (2019) 'Multilingual locals and textual circulation before colonialism'. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, (39) 1, pp 63-67.

Marzagora, Sara (2019) 'Ethiopian Intellectual History and the Global: Käbbädä Mikael’s Geographies of Belonging'. Journal of World Literature, (4) 1, pp 107-128.

Marzagora, Sara (2019) 'Refashioning the Ethiopian monarchy in the twentieth century: An intellectual history'. Global Intellectual History. [Forthcoming]

Laachir, Karima and Marzagora, Sara and Orsini, Francesca (2018) 'Multilingual locals and significant geographies: For a ground-up and located approach to world literature'. Modern Languages Open, (1) 19, pp 1-8.

Laachir, Karima and Marzagora, Sara and Orsini, Francesca (2018) 'Significant Geographies: in lieu of world literature'. Journal of World Literature, (3) 3, pp 290-310.

Marzagora, Sara (2017) 'History in twentieth-century Ethiopia: The ‘Great Tradition’ and the counter-histories of national failure'. The Journal of African History, (58) 3, pp 425-444.

Marzagora, Sara (2016) 'The humanism of reconstruction: African intellectuals, decolonial critical theory and the opposition to the ‘posts’ (postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism)'. Journal of African Cultural Studies, (28) 2, pp 161-178.

Marzagora, Sara (2015) 'Re-writing history in the literature of the Ethiopian diaspora in Italy'. African Identities, (13) 3, pp 211-225.

Marzagora, Sara (2015) 'Editorial: Literatures in African Languages'. Journal of African Cultural Studies, (27) 1, pp 1-6.

Marzagora, Sara (2015) 'African-language literatures and the ‘transnational turn’ in Euro-American humanities'. Journal of African Cultural Studies, (27) 1, pp 40-55.

Edited Books or Journals

Marzagora, Sara and Orsini, Francesca and Laachir, Karima, (eds.), (2019) Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 39, no. 1 - special issue on Multilingual Locals and Textual Circulation Before Colonialism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Marzagora, Sara, (ed.), (2015) Journal of African Cultural Studies vol. 27, no.1 - special issue on Literatures in African Languages. London: Taylor and Francis.

Book Chapters

Marzagora, Sara and Kebede, Ayele (2019) 'Literary networks in the Horn of Africa: Oromo and Amharic intellectual histories'. In: Adejunmobi, Moradewun and Coetzee, Carli, (eds.), Routledge Handbook of African Literature. London, UK: Taylor & Francis, pp 429-442.

Marzagora, Sara (2018) 'On either end of modernity: Ethiopian writers on history and social change'. In: Comberiati, Daniele and Luffin, Xavier, (eds.), Italy and the Literatures of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti). Rome: Aracne, pp 19-48.

Marzagora, Sara (2018) 'Nationalism: The Italian occupation in Amharic literature and political thought'. In: Brioni, Simone and Gulema, Shimelis, (eds.), The Horn of Africa and Italy: Colonial, Postcolonial and Transnational Cultural Encounters. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp 141-166.

Marzagora, Sara (2015) '‘We proceed following Japan’: the role of the Japanese model in early 20th century Ethiopian political philosophy'. In: Sonderegger, Arno, (ed.), African Thoughts on Colonial and Neo-colonial Worlds: Facets of an Intellectual History of Africa. Berlin: Neofelis Verlag, pp 17-32.

Book Reviews

Marzagora, Sara (2018) 'Review of Matteo Salvadore, The African Prester John and the Birth of Ethiopian-European Relations, 1402-1555 (Transculturalisms 1400–1700.) xi, 235 pp. London and New York: Routledge, 2017'. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, (81) 1, pp 188-190.

Marzagora, Sara (2017) 'Review of James de Lorenzi, Guardians of the Traditions: Historians and historical writing in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Rochester NY: University of Rochester Press, 2015, 219 pp'. Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute, (87) 2, pp 421-423.


This list was last generated on Monday, 21st October 2019, 11:41 Europe/London.