Universal Rights versus Exclusionary Politics: Aspirations and Despair among Eritrean Refugees in Tel Aviv

Tanja R. Müller


By investigating contemporary refugees, this paper analyses the contradictory dynamics of a global order whereby universal rights are distributed unequally through nation-state politics. It uses an ethnographic case study of Eritrean refugees in Tel Aviv as its empirical base in order to investigate refugeeness as a condition of everyday life. The paper demonstrates how a repressive environment within Eritrea has made people refugees, and how that condition is being reinforced by the Israeli government’s refusal to recognise these refugees as such. It further interrogates the relationship between persecution and belonging that characterises the lives of Eritreans as refugees in Israel. The paper concludes by arguing that being a refugee does not preclude feeling a strong sense of national belonging. Eritrean refugees in Tel Aviv do not aspire to gain cosmopolitan citizenship rights but are driven by the desire to be rightful citizens of Eritrea.

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