PhD Public Defence: Temesgen Tesfamariam

PhD Public Defence
MISR Seminar Room 1
Event Date
August 24, 2018
Event Time
09:15 AM

The Director Makerere Institute of Social Research Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, cordially invites you to the PhD Public Defence of Mr. Temesgen Tesfamariam Beyan scheduled to take place on Friday 24th August, 2018 at 09:15a.m. at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in Seminar Room 1.


Thesis title: Militias, Warriors and Workers: Capturing Peasants and The Making of a Strong State and a Weak Society in Eritrea.


Supervisor: Dr. Samson. Bezabeh, Research Fellow, MISR.


Opponent / Discussant

Associate Professor Redie Bereketeab, Senior Researcher, The Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden.


This dissertation explores the processes of capturing peasants as militias, warriors and workers in Eritrea and the evolution of a strong state and a weak society. It analyzes the history of a century-long state formation process and the nature of the state that it eventually produced. This dissertation is located within the broader context of power arrangement and the state’s method of capturing peasants in Africa. However, unlike to the commonly understood methods of capturing peasants through market, customary law and civil society, it shows a strong reliance of different forms of political powers in Eritrea on militarization as a process and military institutions as a structure to incorporate rural society as modern political subjects with the support of capital, international aid and civic education. By asserting that militarization and military institutions conceal beyond ordinary tasks of security, the work shows that in Eritrea militarization and military institution have been serving as sources of state power, as methods of breaking old mode of production, as tools of capturing peasants and as routes to modernization.

The analysis departs from the nature of the pre-colonial peasantry mode of production in order to show the nature of transformation that peasants had undergone throughout the process. The history of modern state formation in Eritrea begins with the arrival of Italian colonial period under which the framework of the state and its relationship with the society was almost set. As much as the process was a history of a state’s struggle to consolidate hegemony over the society, it was also a history of uprooting peasants’ manpower through military conscription. Such an approach continued to be reproduced under the Ethiopian state for domination and in the course of the armed struggle for resistance.

In addition, the dissertation shows that, even if there existed different forms of political power, historically, militarization in Eritrea has never failed to serve as an instrument of penetrating society to incorporate the non-state spaces. This penetration eventually led to the weakening of market, to the deterioration of civil society and to the dissolution of indigenous forms of identities. Finally, it discusses the end result of this process: how militarism as a process of incorporating peasants have produced a hegemonic state, equipped with relatively highly organized and efficient military institutions, which can control the daily lives of society and their social relationships.