Crippling the Will of a People: Morphostatic Structures of Violence and the Crawl-Space of Agency in the Lives of Eritrean Refugees

Author: Commerer, Jared

Date: 2016

Publisher: Victoria University of Wellington

Type: Scholarly text, Masters

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Victoria University of Wellington


In conjunction with an exposition of the larger historical and political context of the nation of Eritrea, this thesis examines the life narratives of five refugees hailing from the Horn of Africa. In doing so, certain institutional, relational, and embodied forms of violence are identified as permeating Eritrea’s socio-political fabric and thus also the inter- and intra-personal lives of the participants. Where morphostatic structures are deemed as those that constrain an individual’s capacity to pursue their ultimate concerns, it is maintained that violence in the form of extreme nationalism, routinised fear, and varying subjective affects partially accounts for the fact that an estimated 5,000 people are fleeing this small, modernising African nation every month. Following this, I argue that, by examining the life-narratives of Eritrean refugees, violence can be understood as transpiring at the interstices of an ongoing – albeit skewed – dialectic between, on one hand, morphostatic structures of violence appearing in institutional, relational, and embodied forms, and, on the other, a degree of mimetic agency that, when harnessed, acts as a crawl-space through which individuals – if they are to realise their ultimate concerns – must absent themselves relative to such structures of violence.

Subjects: Eritrea, Extreme nationalism, Political violence, Refugees, Life narrative