The Struggling State

Nationalism, Mass Militarization, and the Education of Eritrea

Jennifer Riggan
Honorable Mention for the 2018 Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award from The Comparative and International Education Society
Book Cover

HC: $70.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1270-6
Publication: Jan 16

Ebook: $36.00
EAN: 978-1-4399-1272-0
Publication: Jan 16

258 pages
6 x 9

Examining Eritrean teachers’ paradoxical role of educating students forced into the military

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).


A 2003 law in Eritrea, a notoriously closed-off, heavily militarized, and authoritarian country, mandated an additional year of school for all children and stipulated that the classes be held at Sawa, the nation’s military training center. As a result, educational institutions were directly implicated in the making of soldiers, putting Eritrean teachers in the untenable position of having to navigate between their devotion to educating the nation and their discontent with their role in the government program of mass militarization.

In her provocative ethnography, The Struggling State, Jennifer Riggan examines the contradictions of state power as simultaneously oppressive to and enacted by teachers. Riggan, who conducted participant observation with teachers in and out of schools, explores the tenuous hyphen between nation and state under lived conditions of everyday authoritarianism.

The Struggling State shows how the hopes of Eritrean teachers and students for the future of their nation have turned to a hopelessness in which they cannot imagine a future at all.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Everyday Authoritarianism, Teachers, and the Decoupling of Nation and State
1. Struggling for the Nation: Contradictions of Revolutionary Nationalism
2. “It Seemed like a Punishment”: Coercive State Effects and the Maddening State
3. Students or Soldiers? Troubled State Technologies and the Imagined Future of Educated Eritrea
4. Educating Eritrea: Disorder, Disruption, and Remaking the Nation
5. The Teacher State: Morality and Everyday Sovereignty over Schools Conclusion: Escape, Encampment, and the Alchemy of Nationalism


About the Author(s)

Jennifer Riggan is Associate Professor of International Studies in the Department of Historical and Political Studies at Arcadia University.