Book Chapter Discussion! The Struggling State: Nationalism, Mass Militarization, and the Education of Eritrea

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 12:15pm
Urbs Seminar Room
Presenter: Dr. Jennifer Riggan, Associate Professor International Studies, Arcadia University

Discussant: Dr. Krystal Strong, Assistant Professor Education, Culture, and Society Division, Penn GSE


In Eritrea, an authoritarian country where military service has become indefinite for many and citizens often describe the state as “like a prison,” a 2003 law added a mandatory extra year of school for all children, stipulating that classes would take place at the Sawa military training center. As a result, educational institutions were directly implicated in the making of soldiers. The Struggling State explores how nationalism is recalibrated under lived conditions of everyday authoritarianism by citizens who think of themselves as being punished by the state. It examines the contradictions of state power as it was simultaneously oppressive to teachers and enacted by teachers. The book raises questions that have implications far beyond Eritrea and sheds light on what happens when citizens come to regard themselves as being punished by the state. The book illustrates the internal contradictions of the state by exploring the untenable position that teachers were put in as they navigated between their devotion to building an educated nation and the policy implementation role that government policies assigned them. This talk will focus particularly on state coercion in public space using the concept of encampment to illuminate state-citizen relations in Eritrean. The presentation will draw linkages between mass “round-ups” of civilians in urban spaces, citizen experiences of control in military camps, teacher control of student bodies through the containment of school space, and the broader enclosure of the nation itself through prohibitions on emigration.