Dina Michael Asfaha

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10403

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Asfaha, Dina (Pennsylvania, U. of) "In the Trenches: Medicine, Mutual Aid, and Sovereignty in Eritrea"

What are the implications for governance and political belonging when a nation’s critical resource—its health care system—is established in a time of trench warfare? Today, Eritrean war veterans routinely discuss independence by referring to the clinicians and clinics they relied on to treat wartime injuries. They continuously highlight clinical infrastructure – medicine and the flow of medical resources – in their recollections of the Eritrean liberation struggle against imperial Ethiopia (1961-1991). My research examines how Eritreans reference the underground hospital system, which originated in the Nakfa trenches, to theorize political belonging, asking: what does framing independence through injury tell us about postcolonial infrastructure? In this work, I take injury to entail both physical injury and ‘social injury’ (Ralph 2014), or the contexts that produce and perpetuate violence. Using ethnographic inquiry and archival research, this project examines 1) the history of colonial and imperial violence in the Horn of Africa and how Eritreans devise social infrastructures to contend with this history; 2) recollections of clinical expertise, economic cooperation, and injury across a political geography of clinical infrastructure in armed conflict zones during the Eritrean liberation struggle; and 3) how practices and infrastructures inaugurated in the trenches continue to animate political aspirations.