Community in Exile: Eritrean Networks in Germany

After almost thirty years of war with its neighbouring country Ethiopia, Eritrea is now an independant nation. In 1993, the North East African country was finally able to claim its long sought after sovereignty. But the problems continue: the development of the country shattered by war, ethnic differences and the dominating position of the former liberators complicate any political stability. Among the consequences of the war, there are an additional million refugees that tried to escape the war turmoil. The biggest Eritrean exile communities are in the neighbouring countries of Sudan and Ethiopia, but even in Germany there are about 16,000 Eritreans who thus form the biggest communitiy of Eritrean exiles in Europe.
The Eritrean exile community is marked by a high degree of solidarity and loyalty amongst themselves and towards their home country. The first Eritrean cultural and social clubs (mehabere com) were founded in Germany in the mid-1980s. These clubs usually have a personal connection to Eritrea and organize Eritrean life in exile according to the principle of "self-reliance" as it was necessary during the independence war. While, in the country of origin, the discontent about the social and economic situation is growing, most of the exiles are rather uncritical of the one-party-regime and the policy of the PFDJ. The question arises, why do the exiles develop and hold on to a strongly idealized image of their home country and what role does this image - as well as the resulting financial support - play for the government of Eritrea?

Duration of Funding: 2003-2005

Prof. Carola Lentz (Cultural Antropology)
Prof. Lothar Brock (Political Science)

Nina von Nolting M.A. (Ethnologie)

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