This paper discusses fieldwork in Eritrea by a social anthropologist (Gruber) and a political scientist (Garcetti) between 1995 and 1998. It provides a case study of certain aspects of development and change in the newest nation-state in Africa. Its specific context encompasses consideration of the ways in which disparate groups of women (and men) are addressing the realities of life in a post-conflict Eritrea that remains predicated in its traditional socio-cultural values and norms upon patriarchy and female submission, against a background of government and institutional adherence to the achievement of gender equity and equality. In addition the paper discusses the ways in which Eritrean national identity is being created from previously clearly and consciously self-delineated groups. The many and public ways in which the present government conflates the route to genuine nationhood with the structure of the family, and its centralising focus on the notion of the consolidation of the greater family of the nation, presuppose the participation of women and girls as equal partners.
Paper presented at the African Studies’ Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, October 29th-November 1st, 1998, 27 pp.