Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Washington
Inventing locality: Returnees and reconstruction of the Eritrean social landscape

This project contributes to growing debates on refugee repatriation and post-conflict development. Working through the frameworks of political ecology, the anthropology of development, and refugee studies, this project focuses on resettlement and rural development in the western lowlands of Eritrea. After a thirty year armed struggle for independence from successive Ethiopian regimes, Eritrea emerged as an independent nation-state in the early 1990s. However, almost a third of the population had been displaced, with around 400,000 Eritreans living as refugees in Sudan. The challenge of nation-building and reconstruction has involved resettlement of over 95% of these refugees to the Gash Barka district in the western lowlands. A region scarred by years of conflict, Gash Barka is nevertheless envisioned as the future breadbasket of a nation grappling with the pressing issue of food security. Through comparative ethnographic studies of two communities in the Gash Barka region, this project explores the new dimensions and perceptions of citizenship and stewardship arising within multiethnic returnee communities and the ways in which they are impacted by the struggles of individuals and organizations to recraft rural livelihoods and landscapes. This study assesses the micro-level impacts of different property regimes and rural development projects in diverse returnee communities. Of broader significance, this project contributes to knowledge and theory of post-conflict development, refugee repatriation, and political ecology through a focus on the shifting parameters of citizenship and stewardship in the nation-building project of a multi-ethnic state.