EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W090)

A regional crisis of global consequence: conflict and political imagination in the Horn of Africa and its diaspora

Location John Hume Lecture Theatre 5
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenor

David O'Kane (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) email
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Long Abstract

Often misunderstood and underrated local, regional, and global dynamics interface in the Horn of Africa, comprised of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Djibouti. Throughout the region and its worldwide diasporas, historical and political ferments collide with the global world (dis)order to produce an array of political discourses and struggles. The so-called 'War on Terror' is only one of the crises with which the peoples of the Horn contend. Their lives are beset by conflicts over borders, territories and identities as well as militarization, food insecurity, and forced migration, all which have dramatic consequences for states and populations within the Horn of Africa, the wider East African region, and globally.

This workshop approaches these issues from local, global, and historical perspectives to understand the dynamics of conflict in the Horn region, and how they are related to global neo-liberal political-economic pressures and trends like democracy, development, human rights, terrorism, and national security and sovereignty.

In exploring how these pressures and trends - and the hopes and fears that inhere within them - play out in the Horn of Africa and its diasporas, address the following questions through ethnographically and historically grounded, comparative analyses: How do people in/from the Horn perceive these dynamics? How do they imagine and cope with the multi-layered political field in which their lives are enmeshed? How do they think about tensions and uncertainties and reason about their causes? What are their individual and/or collective responses? How can scholars contribute to both political debates and improving human security?

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Decentralization to the household in Oromia, Ethiopia: the case of the garee misoma in state-led rural road construction

Author: Rony Emmenegger (University of Zurich)  email
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Long Abstract

In Ethiopia, the country's four-tiered administrative/decentralized structure has recently been strengthened by the creation of garee in the Oromia region. A garee consists of a group of households, which is mobilized for development purposes. Its establishment has been accompanied by considerable controversy. While critics describe the garee as a mechanism of control and repression, the government presents it as an answer to popular demand for development. Through ethnographically grounded analyses, this paper explores the everyday practices and the role of garee in state-led development activities, particularly rural road construction. Guided by anthropology and sociology of development, the paper describes how practices and rhetorics contribute to the construction of the state-peasant relation in which the state orders and the peasantry obeys. The paper reveals that the garee intensifies the state's intrusive power but at the same time intensifies a struggle over meaning of different actors' roles and the state-peasant relation.

The intimate state: Eritrean teachers navigating the carceral nation

Author: Jennifer Riggan (Arcadia University)  email
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Long Abstract

Based on an ethnographic study of Eritrean teachers' ambiguous and ambivalent roles as state makers, this paper explores controversies over teacher transfers to remote villages. Often referred to as a "prison", governance in Eritrea is enacted through the logics of spatial containment and control, surveillance and discipline. The government has the capacity to relocate citizens and civil servants and rationalizes these relocations by drawing on narratives of duty and service to nation. However, teachers believed that transfers were punishments and experienced them as a highly personalized incarnation of the broader carceral ordering of social life. Through discourses about a punishing state, teachers constructed an imaginary of the state as both malevolent and intimate. I argue that an examination of these types of controversies uncovers a multifaceted commentary on government power, a debate over the nature and meaning of the notion of "duty" to the nation, and a reworked popular imaginary of the state.

The grammar of intolerance: the cultural politics of human rights in transnational Eritrea

Author: Tricia Redeker-Hepner (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)  email
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Long Abstract

In the mid-2000s, Eritreans in the global diaspora began engaging human rights discourse as a new model for socio-political relations in the shadow of political conflict and transnational state repression. Drawing on original ethnographic data, this paper explores the emergence of human rights discourse and its articulation with Eritrean transnational politics. I argue that while the current anthropological analysis of human rights as a cultural process has enormous interpretive and analytical utility, it falls short of accounting for how human rights may not transform power relations vis-à-vis nationalist logic. That is, human rights may become enmeshed in political struggles in ways that shift the "parole" of debate while leaving the underlying "langue" of political intolerance untouched. The cultural politics of human rights thus engages rights talk and praxis on some levels while leaving the grammar of intolerance intact. Are human rights simply politics in another tongue?

Land reform, civil society and the state in Eritrea and elsewhere

Author: David O'Kane (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

Eritrea today is beset by several overlapping and unresolved economic and political problems, to which land reform could help provide a solution. The land nationalisation proposals of the Land Proclamation of 1994, however, continue to be criticised. This paper considers the relationship between land reform and politics in Eritrea by placing the debate over Eritrean land reform in a wider historical context. Contextualisation of this kind will allow us to map future options for both land reform and democratisation in Eritrea. Both authoritarian state-led land reform and so-called 'market-led land reform' have been less than successful in delivering either economic development or social justice: hence, some scholars have called for 'community-led' land reform. The delegation of power to communities, however, is not compatible with the way in which Eritrean politics has been conducted since 1991.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.