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Ransoms, Remittances, and Refugees: The Gatekeeper State in Eritrea


This paper draws from ethnographic research in Eritrea to explore new configurations of power and belonging in the Eritrean gatekeeper state. The gatekeeper state is a theory describing state-society relations in Africa in which the patrimonial state sits astride narrow channels of wealth creation, relying on control of the circulation of citizens, funds, and resources within and across national borders. The escape—illegal emigration—of citizens from Eritrea and the remittances sent home to families in rural areas have potentially been a source of challenge to state authority, but this paper argues that the Eritrean state has developed new gatekeeping strategies that operate in and through porous borders, transnational kinship networks, and the aspirations of citizens to escape civil service.

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