Biruk Terrefe

Research Student

Biruk Terrefe is a DPhil Candidate at St Antony’s College in Oxford. His research interests lie in the modern history and politics of the Horn of Africa, with a particular focus on the dynamics of state- and nation-building and state-society relations. His recent work has been on the Ethiopian state and the tensions between the ruling party’s centralized developmental ambitions and the ethnically federated architecture of the state. This tension becomes particularly evident in the study of infrastructure, as highly contested material spaces of political bargaining. 

Before starting this DPhil, Biruk was an independent political analyst based in Addis Ababa interested in dynamics of political rupture, elite politics and the political economy of infrastructure development. He was also a researcher on two projects focused on the politics of urban infrastructure in Addis Ababa (LSECities) and the energy sector in Ethiopia (University of Manchester).  

Biruk was previously the convener of the Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN) and has developed a keen interest in examining the intricate nature of China-Ethiopia Relations. He was a Carlo Schmid Fellow at the World Health Organization. Biruk holds an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Oxford and a BA in International Economics and Development from Jacobs University Bremen. 

In the media
A party-state derailed: The techno-politics of infrastructure and bureaucracy in EPRDF’s Ethiopia...

Journal articles and special issues

Terrefe, Biruk (with Philipp Rode, Nuno F. da Cruz) (2020) 'Cities and the governance of transport interfaces: Ethiopia's new rail systems', Transport Policy 91 76-94
Terrefe, Biruk (2020) 'Urban layers of political rupture: the "new" politics of Addis Ababa’s megaprojects', Journal of Eastern African Studies 14 (3) 375-95

Working papers

Terrefe, Biruk (with Tom Lavers, Fana Gebresenbet) (2021) 'Powering development: the political economy of electricity generation in the EPRDF’s Ethiopia', FutureDAMS Working Paper 014

Other publications

Terrefe, Biruk (2021) 'Book review "Ethiopia in Theory: Revolution and Knowledge Production 1964-2016"', Journal of Development Studies
19 May, 2020
New article co-authored by DPhil Biruk Terrefe explores governance of transport infrastructure interfaces
10 Feb, 2021
'Can Addis Ababa stop its architectural gems being hidden under high-rises?'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe writes for the Guardian
08 Oct, 2020
'A year after Nobel, Abiy tries to beautify a divided Ethiopia'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe writes for France24
23 Jun, 2020
'Megaprojects in Addis Ababa raise questions about spatial justice'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe writes for the Conversation
04 Jun, 2020
'Fare City insight series: Addis Ababa'. In a podcast for the Fare City think tank, DPhil Biruk Terrefe discusses how Addis Ababa is responding to COVID-19
16 Oct, 2019
'The roll-out of big infrastructure that essentially still ignores existing plans ... and blindsides city administration officials sets a dangerous precedent'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe is quoted in the Guardian about urbanisation dynamics in Addis Ababa
11 Oct, 2019
'Addis Ababa is a city that has constant electricity and water problems, that doesn’t have efficient public transportation... There are a lot of other things this city needs'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe is interviewed by the Washington Post about Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Unity Park palace renovation
21 Jul, 2019
'En Ethiopie, La Gare sous les bulldozers'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe is quoted in Le Monde about urbanisation dynamics in Addis Ababa
30 Apr, 2019
'Wenn China in Afrika eine Bahn baut'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe is interviewed on Swiss Radio about infrastructure development, urbanisation and Industrialisation in Ethiopia
12 May, 2018
'It’s the physical manifestation of the country’s politics'. DPhil Biruk Terrefe is interviewed in the Guardian about the modernised Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway line
Research interests:

History and Politics of the Horn of Africa; Ethiopia; Developmental States; Bureaucracies and Development; State-Society Relations; Federalism & Local Government; Political Economy of Infrastructure & Planning; Urban Politics.