Accepted Paper:

The intimate state: Eritrean teachers navigating the carceral nation  
Jennifer Riggan (Arcadia University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores controversies over Eritrean teacher transfers to remote villages. I argue that these controversies uncover a commentary on government power, a debate over the meaning of duty to the nation, and a reworked popular imaginary of the state.

Paper 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.

Panel W090
A regional crisis of global consequence: conflict and political imagination in the Horn of Africa and its diaspora