Postdoc (2014-2016)

Revolution Reloaded?
Political Culture and Social Tensions
Among Eritrean Social Movement Organizations in Exile

Swiss National Science Foundation "Advanced Postdoc Mobility" 2-years Fellowship
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA.


This project addresses the social and cultural dynamics of exiles' resistance against new forms of transnational authoritarianism. It focuses on the social movement of Eritreans in exile which emerged in 2010 and which seeks to challenge the authoritarian regime in power in Eritrea and in diaspora communities across the globe. This research is situated at the crossroads of three fields of study in social sciences: it contributes to our understanding of social movements, transnational political processes and dynamics of conflicts in diasporas.

Eritrean social movement is considerably shaped by the constraints and the threats imposed by the transnational Eritrean authoritarian regime, by fears and distrust and by social tensions caused by ambivalent loyalties and moral dilemmas. Considering this tense situation, the project analyzes the socio-cultural, normative and emotional dynamics that preside over the organizing models, the rules and the elaboration of strategies in the Eritrean social movement. It asks how this movement attempts to bypass or undermine tensions and it examines how the modi operandi and strategies of the movement constitute innovations or represent a redefinition of the political culture and the repertoires of Eritrean politics of contention.

Research questions are structured in four analytical sections: the first analyzes the dynamics generated by pressures and tensions and how activists attempt to defuse them. The second section examines the norms and moral values that shape the movement's governance and activities. The third section focuses on the role of social media and online processes and the fourth aims at delineating the influences of host societies on the models of organization adopted by the Eritrean social movement.

This project will contribute to the longitudinal analysis of Eritrean transnational political processes and the trajectory of resistance against authoritarianism by adding new data on contemporary politics of contention that have not yet been studied. It will allow us to understand the circulation and the hybridization of various political and organizational models as well as the elements of an enduring political culture that has shaped political processes across several decades and throughout competing ideologies and statehood projects. On a comparative level, this case study will offer an opportunity to examine the modi operandi of a high risk social movement in detail and will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of exiles' political social movements and their impact on transnational authoritarianism.