The immediate, the exceptional and the historical: Eritrean migration and research since the 1960s

Magnus Treiber, Tricia Redeker Hepner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article discusses the historical development and dialectical interconnections between migration from Eritrea and knowledge construction since the 1960s by academics, migrants and the refugee regime. We explore how knowledge about Eritrea is grounded in dynamics of immediacy: the direct experience of persecution and refuge; fieldwork on the ground; and the urgency of responding to refugee claims and crises. Refugee narratives must also demonstrate exceptionality: how does one’s experience reflect individual persecution as well as “objective” country conditions? And yet, refugee narratives and experiences are historically contingent and thick, with the dynamics of persecution often rooted less in the immediate and exceptional, and more in the collective, sedimented past. By illuminating the relationships among the immediate, the exceptional and the historical in refugee migration and research, we show how substantive scholarship can be circumscribed and shaped by political conditions on the ground and by humanitarian imperatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-583
Number of pages21
JournalCanadian Journal of African Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Eritrea
  • asylum seekers
  • expert knowledge
  • migration
  • refugee regime
  • refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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