NEW PUBLICATION: Systemic ambivalence in authoritarian contexts: The case of opinion formation in Eritrea

Dr Georgia Cole (2019) “Systemic ambivalence in authoritarian contexts: The case of opinion formation in Eritrea” ,Political Geography (73),  Pp  28-37


This article details the perspectives of individuals within Eritrea towards migrants who have left the country. In part, it corroborates the work of other authors on the topic of migration in this context, who note Eritreans’ deep ambivalence when discussing this politically and emotionally charged topic. Whilst citizens opposed to Eritrea’s ruling regime repeat its explanations for this phenomenon, and regularly downplay or dismiss the state violence that contributes towards this mass exodus, they simultaneously express empathy towards those who have left, acknowledging the reasons that compelled them to leave and the hardships they have faced in doing so. Unlike these previous contributions, however, this article is concerned to explore not only how government narratives affect personal experience, but also with how these critical citizens end up co-constituting authoritarian power. In detailing citizens’ contradictory, concurrent views, it makes a case for understanding ambivalence in authoritarian spaces as a systemic feature of political and social life, which assists in perpetuating authoritarian rule in a context of political and economic atrophy. It substantiates this by describing mechanisms through which authoritarian rule extends beyond points of contact and moments of direct coercion. Namely, it explores how government-sanctioned vocabularies and interpretations may affect intimate relationships conducted in and through private spaces. Alongside revealing the political importance of ambivalence in authoritarian environments, the article thus aims to highlight key avenues for thinking about the spatiality and endurance of these regimes of control.

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