Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Biopolitics, Militarism, and Development

Biopolitics, Militarism, and Development: Eritrea in the Twenty-First Century

David O’Kane
Tricia Redeker Hepner
Series: Dislocations
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 236
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Biopolitics, Militarism, and Development
    Book Description:

    Bringing together original, contemporary ethnographic research on the Northeast African state of Eritrea, this book shows how biopolitics - the state-led deployment of disciplinary technologies on individuals and population groups - is assuming particular forms in the twenty-first century. Once hailed as the "African country that works," Eritrea's apparently successful post-independence development has since lapsed into economic crisis and severe human rights violations. This is due not only to the border war with Ethiopia that began in 1998, but is also the result of discernible tendencies in the "high modernist" style of social mobilization for development first adopted by the Eritrean government during the liberation struggle (1961-1991) and later carried into the post-independence era. The contributions to this volume reveal and interpret the links between development and developmentalist ideologies, intensifying militarism, and the controlling and disciplining of human lives and bodies by state institutions, policies, and discourses. Also assessed are the multiple consequences of these policies for the Eritrean people and the ways in which such policies are resisted or subverted. This insightful, comparative volume places the Eritrean case in a broader global and transnational context.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-898-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction Biopolitics, Militarism, and Development in Contemporary Eritrea
    (pp. ix-xxxvii)
    Tricia Redeker Hepner and David O’Kane

    In the Horn of Africa, along the coast of the Red Sea, lies the troubled and turbulent country of Eritrea. Although still unfamiliar in many circles and increasingly controversial in others, Eritrea is perhaps best known for waging a three-decade liberation war against Ethiopia (1961–1991) that culminated in its independence in 1993. More recently, the country has appeared on the world stage due to both an intractable border conflict with Ethiopia and its deteriorating relations with the United States and other Western powers. Far from a terra incognita, Eritrea’s legacy of armed conflict, its intensive nation-building efforts, and the...

  5. Chapter One Pitfalls of Nationalism in Eritrea
    (pp. 1-16)
    Tekle M.Woldemikael

    Every year on 24 May, Eritreans celebrate Independence Day with great fanfare and revelry.¹ This is a celebration of the day the nation became a reality, after thirty years of armed conflict with Ethiopia (1961–1991). On that day a nationalist guerrilla movement, the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF), took power, making Eritrea an independent country from Ethiopia. In 1994, EPLF’s third congress was conducted in the town of Naqfa, wherein the guerrilla movement transformed itself into the only party in the country, renamed itself the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), and assumed absolute control of the state....

  6. Chapter Two War, Spatiotemporal Perception, and the Nation: Fighters and Farmers in the Highlands
    (pp. 17-33)
    Michael Mahrt

    Commentators have often remarked upon the impressive support the Eritrean liberation movements received from the rural populations in the areas they operated during the liberation war (1961–1991). There is no doubt that this support was vital for the movements’ eventually successful struggle. Many also see a direct link between this support and the overwhelming vote in favor of independence in May 1993, assuming that support for the liberation movements also meant support for the cause they were fighting for. The former Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front, now in government, has done much to strengthen the idea that the independence struggle represented...

  7. Chapter Three The Youth Has Gone from Our Soil: Place and Politics in Refugee Resettlement and Agrarian Development
    (pp. 34-52)
    Amanda Poole

    In October 2006, the UN cited Eritrea for breaking the ceasefire accords with Ethiopia and moving armed troops and tanks into the temporary security zone—a tense strip of land that has divided the two countries since the end of open conflict in 2000.¹ The Eritrean Information Minister provided the rejoinder that the military was there “to pick crops.” “If the harvest is not taken,” he claimed, “it will be lost with severe consequences for our food security”(BBC News 2006).Whatever other motivations it may be masking in the convoluted politics sustaining the border dispute, this claim is consistent...

  8. Chapter Four Human Resource Development and the State: Higher Education in Postrevolutionary Eritrea
    (pp. 53-71)
    Tanja R. Müller

    Education policy commonly has objectives beyond the area of education, comprising a combination of political, social, economic, and pedagogic concerns (Psacharopoulos 1993; Green 1997). Within revolutionary societies such as Eritrea, education is regarded as an important instrument to promote social change. The rationale behind education as a tool for societal transformation is twofold: the formation of conscious citizens motivated by collective goals, coupled with the transmission of skills necessary to overcome underdevelopment and achieve self-sustaining growth (Arnove 1994; Müller 2004; Pham Minh Hac 1998).

    One focus of formal education systems in revolutionary settings thus centers on creating a more just...

  9. Chapter Five Avoiding Wastage by Making Soldiers: Technologies of the State and the Imagination of the Educated Nation
    (pp. 72-91)
    Jennifer Riggan

    One morning in late October 2003, I sat outside the staff room at the Senior Secondary School in Assab with Teacher Samson, one of the school’s senior teachers. As we talked, we watched several students flitting in and out of their classroom, and several leaning through the open windows and heckling the students and teacher inside. Teachers such as Samson were constantly complaining that students were chronically late and truant, that their behavior was increasingly difficult to manage, that they were not studying, and that there was a severe crisis of motivation among the students.

    In the fall of 2003...

  10. Chapter Six Trapped in Adolescence: The Postwar Urban Generation
    (pp. 92-114)
    Magnus Treiber

    Mesfin, a young man in his late twenties, could usually be found sitting in the back room of Bar Hilton, a small local bar outside the Asmara city center. It was as dirty as it was comfortable, its name an ironic duplicate of a well-known and luxurious hotel company. During 2002 and 2003, when Bar Hilton was an ill-reputed but well-frequented bar, Mesfin could be found there from the early afternoon on, emptying a bottle of local gin, when he could pay for it, or when he had been invited to share a drink in the company of friends. Mesfin...

  11. Chapter Seven Seeking Asylum in a Transnational Social Field: New Refugees and Struggles for Autonomy and Human Rights
    (pp. 115-133)
    Tricia Redeker Hepner

    Contemporary Eritrea is comprised not only of the diverse populations living within the territory of the nation-state but also a diasporic citizenry that makes up an estimated one-quarter to one-third of the total population of the country. While census data has not been recorded for independent Eritrea, and while no reliable figures indicating the actual size or regional breakdown of Eritrean populations worldwide are yet available, an estimated one million people settled outside of Eritrea permanently during the struggle for independence (see Hepner and Conrad 2005). Despite efforts to repatriate several hundred thousand refugees in Sudan back to their home...

  12. Chapter Eight The Eritrean State in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 134-158)
    Greg Cameron

    When the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Army (EPLA) marched down Asmara’s Godena Harnet (Liberation Avenue) and into history in 1991, this consummation of their struggle could rightly be seen as confirming the Eritrean revolution’s reputation as one of the twentieth century’s most successful national liberation movements. Yet postwar governance of the revolutionary state would prove to be far more complex a challenge than militarily removing the USSR-supported Ethiopian Derg (Provisional Military Advisory Committee) regime from Eritrean soil. The liberation “moment,” (now undoubtedly remembered by many Eritreans as a kind of golden age, as in similar countries in Africa), was one in...

  13. Conclusion Biopolitics and Dilemmas of Development in Eritrea and Elsewhere
    (pp. 159-170)
    Tricia Redeker Hepner and David O’Kane

    The optimism with which independent Eritrea was once viewed both inside and outside the country all but disappeared at the turn of the twenty-first century. Certainly, a few traces still linger among trenchant supporters, propped up by the images and ideologies disseminated by the government via carefully orchestrated events and news media. But the ethnographic analysis of everyday Eritrean life, coupled with broader critical perspectives that mitigate against nationalist myths of exceptionalism, indicate otherwise.

    Disappointing though they may be, Eritrea’s lessons provide striking insights into the contemporary dilemmas of African (and other) societies in the contemporary era. In particular, they...

  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 171-173)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 174-189)
  16. Index
    (pp. 190-197)