This paper asks what makes the periphery or the frontier a prime locus of the “inclusionary exclusion” that is, according to Giorgio Agamben, so constitutive of the state of exception. By applying Agamben’s analytics to the Ogaden – a frontier province of the Ethiopian state – we propose an interpretation of the political history of the Ethiopian Ogaden as a recurrent government by exception that spans the Imperial rule (c. 1890–1974), the socialist dictatorship of the Derg (1974–1991), and the current revolutionary democratic regime led by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) (1991–today). Drawing attention to the historical continuities in the exercise of (Ethiopian) state sovereignty in its (Somali) frontier, we offer a genealogy of the violent incorporation of the Ogaden into the Ethiopian body politic. We identify recurring practices of sovereign power by successive Ethiopian regimes that are constitutive of the state of exception, namely a conflation between law and lawlessness, the politics of bare life and an encampment strategy. By doing so, this paper insists on the constitutive importance of land appropriation – Carl Schmitt’s Landnahme – in performances of sovereignty and territorialization at the margins of the postcolonial state.