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The Catch-22 of Resistance: Jokes and the Political Imagination of Eritrean Conscripts


Because of authoritarianism, no collective protests or acts of resistance have emerged since 2001 in Eritrea. Dissidence manifests itself only through indiscipline, obstruction, desertion, and exile. Expressions of discontent and condemnation are carefully concealed in private spheres. This article presents and analyzes how Eritrean conscripts perceive and criticize the political arena and state power in their country by analyzing a corpus of discourse and jokes they share among each other about the state, the government, and its policies. In accounting for this form of resistance, this article documents how these views and their humor, in challenging the legitimacy and the hegemony of the political elites, often contribute to the reification and accentuation of certain characteristics of state power.

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