Call for Conference Papers
Eritrea at Silver Jubilee: Stocktaking on the Nation-Building Experience of a ‘Newly’ Independent African Country
20–21 May 2016
In May 2016 Eritrea will celebrate a quarter of a century (Silver Jubilee), counting from 1991 when it achieved de facto dependence. Although Eritrea’s independence was formally recognized by the international community in 1993 (de jure independence), for Eritreans the most important year remains 1991.
Taking this milestone episode of twenty-five years as an opportune moment for reflection, a group of exiled Eritrean activists and their partners are issuing this call for papers with the objective of organizing a two-day academic conference in Geneva (Switzerland): to assess the successes and failures of the post-independence experience of Eritrea. The conference is expected to culminate with a thematic edited volume to be published by an established publishing house (preferably the New Jersey based Africa World Press Inc. or another equivalent alternative). The conference is based on the following major assumptions.
Eritrea achieved its independence about forty years after the first wave of decolonization in Africa, and this happened at a cost that was so disproportionate to Eritrea’s smaller size. The achievement of Eritrea’s independence in such a protracted and heavily burdened process was very unfortunate, the main causes of which are some regrettable geopolitical “considerations” of the 1950s. On the other hand, Eritrea’s emergence as an independent state in the last decade of the Twentieth Century has in some ways placed the country in an extraordinary position to benefit from the successes and failures of transformation experiences in other African societies.
When Eritrea achieved de facto independence in 1991, many African countries had already counted decades of post-independence history, offering voluminous lessons on how to avoid their mistakes. To say that Eritrea has wantonly squandered this rare opportunity is an understatement. In fact, Eritrea ended up forming a post-independence “government,” which in certain areas proved to be worse than other governments the country has seen in its entire history as a nation-state.
As a country that has suffered for a long period of time from a devastating war of liberation, Eritrea was never expected to undergo a smooth post-independence nation-building process. Moreover, in a continent, where the crisis of rule of law seems to be the norm rather than the exception, Eritrea’s sad experience may not be seen as different from that of the prototype post-colonial African state. However, given Eritrea’s multiple layers of crises, one of which is a widely reported situation of gross human rights violations (including a possible situation of crimes against humanity), the country’s experience is drawing wider attention. This is particularly so as the country enters a landmark moment in its history: commemorating a quarter of a century of its post-independence era.
Thus, the conference is aimed at mainly stimulating further rigorous academic debate that should critically interrogate the core issues that have necessitated the sad state of affairs in Eritrea. It intends to achieve this under the banner of an overarching theme: “stocktaking on the nation-building experience of a ‘newly’ independent African country.”
One important observation is that due to the extremely closed political situation in Eritrea, a conference of this type (with an open critical stance on the performance of the Eritrean government) cannot be hosted in Eritrea for obvious reasons. Thus, it can only take place in the vibrant diaspora communities of Eritrea (also called Eritrea diaspora). As is widely known, due to its long history of forced migration, including the unprecedented mass exodus of the last fifteen years, Eritrea has one of the largest diaspora communities throughout the world (proportional to its total population). Although exact figures cannot be given in this regard, it is not difficult to say that Eritrea is a county that is now equally lived in its national borders and its vibrant diaspora communities, thus befitting of a classification as Eritrea proper and Eritrea diaspora. In relation to this peculiar history of the country, the conference particularly encourages submissions that address the role of Eritrean diaspora communities in influencing political developments in Eritrea proper. Equally important are submissions that propose practical solutions to real-life problems in Eritrea.
Given that the conference is expected to address a myriad of issues of a crosscutting nature, it is important to adopt a multidisciplinary approach that accommodates the engagement of a diverse set of academic perspectives. Thus, submissions can emanate from any of the following non-exhaustive list of academic disciplines: anthropology, sociology, political science, law, history, peace and conflict studies, development studies, and other related discourses.
Interested individuals are now invited to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words (no more than 1 page of an A4 size) before 31 January 2016 to the email address indicated below. Outcome of the selection process will be announced before 29 February 2016. Full paper versions of accepted abstracts will be submitted no later than 30 April 2016.
In keeping with the requirements of standard academic writing, submissions by applicants with a proven track record of peer-reviewed publications will be given priority. In case of doubt, applicants may be asked to prove this by providing a list of their academic publications and CV. Abstracts will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the deadline indicated above.
The Conference Coordinating Committee (CCC)
Email address: email@example.com
(Circulated by Daniel R. Mekonnen on behalf of the CCC)