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The Fines and the Spies: Fears of State Surveillance in Eritrea and in the Diaspora

David Bozzini

Keywords: DESERTION; DIASPORA; DISSIDENCE; ERITREA; FEARS; RETALIATION; SURVEILLANCE; TRANSNATIONALISM

Abstract

Since 2005, the Eritrean state has implemented measures against the increasing desertion of conscripts by retaliating against deserters' families. This article explores the fears spread by this measure in Eritrea and analyzes how people have interpreted its erratic enforcement, including in those countries to which deserters have fled in massive numbers to seek political asylum. The retaliation has served to 'export' fears about the Eritrean state's surveillance abroad and has reshaped political imagination concerning the power of the Eritrean authoritarian state in the diaspora. I argue that imaginings about the state play a crucial role by curbing the political dissidence of new exiles and by giving rise to new fault lines in the diaspora communities in ways that are beneficial to the current Eritrean leadership.

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