Accepted paper:

Seeking asylum, autonomy, and human rights: Eritreans in Germany and the United States


Tricia Redeker-Hepner (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

Paper short abstract:

not used

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on preliminary, comparative ethnographic data collected in the United States and Germany, as well as previous extensive research on Eritrean transnational communities and patterns of governance (Hepner 2008, 2009), this paper outlines an ongoing research agenda analyzing the relationship between increasing flows of new refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea and the emergence of new Eritrean organizations and discourses based on human rights. The central question addressed is what kind of relationship obtains between the rising numbers of new refugees and the development of these new human rights organizations in German and American Eritrean communities. A working hypothesis is that asylum seekers undergo a transformation of politico-legal subjectivity through the asylum process, but the relationship between consciousness and political action is unclear. In both Germany and America, the Eritrean government maintains a strong transnational presence, as do opposition movements. New asylum seekers find both their legal cases and their attempts to formulate human rights discourse and action impeded by the transnational interference of their sending country and the conflicted dynamics of diasporic life. At the same time, the growth of Eritrean organizations seeking autonomy and a definitive rights-based agenda on behalf of both refugees and citizens at home suggests that human rights concepts and the culturally productive aspects of law and policy may represent mechanisms for both peacebuilding and structural and political transformation in Eritrean communities marked by political violence, intolerance, and transnational repression.

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