HOMInG @ ECAS 2019 (European Conference for African Studies, Edinburgh, 11-14 June)

HOMInG’s Milena Belloni will chair, together with Tanja Muller (University of Manchester), a panel in the European Conference for African Studies (ECAS) in Edinburgh from 11th to 14th June, 2019. The panel (Pol 09- 12th June) investigates political belonging among African diasporas. It is entitled Urban citizenship and mobility between here and there: Understanding political belonging among Africa diasporas.

Recent scholarship on African diasporas emphasizes the emergence of new forms of political belonging and transnational lived citizenship in particular among urban populations. The proposed panel takes these dynamics as a starting and seeks to better understand notions of transnational lived citizenship and how these shape political belonging and engagement. The work of the panel conveners and some of the envisaged papers have a strong focus on the Horn of Africa in particular, but we are also interested in African urban contexts more widely. We are soliciting papers that engage with these dynamics and ask questions such as: a) How can acts of political belonging be better understood and analyzed? b) How can political belonging be better harnessed to impact on political developments in host and home cities? c) How is political belonging connected to the wider transnational social field? d) How can the concept of ‘transnational lived citizenship’ help us understand allegiance to home countries through everyday acts of citizenship in host-countries or transit spaces?

See below the abstract of Milena’s presentation.

Diaspora houses and citizenship: mapping Eritrea’s diaspora-state relationships through housing policies

Milena Belloni (University of Trento)


Short abstract

To what extent can diaspora housing be used as a crucial site to explore transnational citizenship? This paper will attempt to answer this question by investigating the Eritrean case.

Long abstract

To what extent can diaspora houses be used as a crucial site to explore transnational citizenship? This paper attempts to answer this question by investigating the Eritrean case. Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork on housing, home and migration in Eritrea and Europe (ERC HOMInG), this paper investigates, on the one hand, the shifting housing policies of the Eritrean government in the last thirty years. On the other hand, it describes migrants’ aspirations to have a house back home and maps their different attitudes towards the government. Drawing from interviews with public officers in Eritrea, ethnographic fieldwork in diaspora neighbourhoods and informal conversation with migrants and their families back home, it will be argued that housing has been a key ingredient for the government to maintain a strong bond with its diaspora members, as well as for migrants to remain “Eritreans”. However, given the complex political situation of the country in the last twenty years, the possibility to carry out housing projects has been limited by authorities. These limitations have had different implications on migrants and their families. In particular, the paper describes how housing policies have had different impact on the homeland connections of those who fled the country before 2000s and those who left afterwards, usually through irregular ways. By exploring the issue of housing, diaspora and state projects in the Eritrean case, this paper shows the importance of looking at diaspora housing as a key aspect of the contemporary articulation of transnational citizenship.