The Paradoxes of State-Led Transnationalism: Capturing Continuity, Change and Rupture in the Eritrean Transnational Social Field
Processes of conflict and domination have historically influenced and continue to influence patterns of mass migration; in some cases, over time shaping the formation of diasporas. These processes have contributed to a rapidly growing body of literature exploring various aspects of what has been termed the migration-development nexus. Contrary to early arguments suggesting that migrants assimilate fully into the societies in which they settle, it is largely observed today that migrants inhabit transnational spaces where they varyingly maintain ties with their ‘home countries’. More recently, literature has acknowledged the ways subsequent generations raised outside the ‘homeland’ are socialized into transnational social fields and thus also lead transnational lives. A range of local, national and global actors have recognized the importance and potential of emigrant populations to transnational processes. Specifically, the ‘sending state’ has been an integral actor in the cultivation and mobilization of its dispersed populations. Relying on a host of mechanisms to ‘court’ their dispersed populations, states adopt policies in an attempt to institutionalize relationships with their diasporas. This portfolio situates itself within this relatively recent, yet quickly growing body of literature on the role of the state in transnational processes. Grounding my analysis in the Eritrean transnational social field, this portfolio locates the role of the Liberation Front-turned-State in engaging its dispersed populations over time. I emphasize the continuities, changes and ruptures that have highlighted and arise from Eritrean state-diaspora relationships since the formation of the Eritrean diaspora. In the face of significant legitimacy loss, relationships between the state and its local and dispersed populations have increasingly become marked by control and coercion aimed at ideologically and physically disciplining citizens. While my analysis is contextually situated within the Eritrean transnational social field, I acknowledge that the issues I explore are located within broader global processes. Thus, my analysis fluidly shifts between individual, national and global levels of analysis to highlight the differing and competing political considerations that are at play at each level.