Cyberspace and the City: (Post)colonial Imaginaries of Asmara

Louvain-La-Neuve

19 mars 2019

14h - 16h

Louvain-la-Neuve

Auditoire Socrate 40

 Victoria Bernal, Senior Research Fellow, KU Leuven, Professor of Anthropology University of California, Irvine

19 mars 2019, Socrate 40, de 14h à 16h

This talk examines a recent series of publications by Western experts about the city of Asmara, Eritrea, and puts them into conversation with the rich field of online texts and images Eritreans have posted on diaspora websites about their capital city. The analysis pursues three broad themes. One is the complex legacies of colonialism and how it continues to be reflected in eurocentrism and ideas about civilization and culture that marginalize African contributions, negate African presence, and refuse African agency. The second theme is about how the city is a rich symbolic field laden with meanings such that the city serves as a medium for debates over social forms and values. The third theme is how the internet and diaspora offer particular spaces for imagination, experimentation, and political struggle. Asmara is often viewed by Europeans through the lens of an aesthetic nostalgia that casts the city as a time capsule where exemplars of the architectural style of Italian fascism are preserved. To Eritreans, however, the city has different meanings. Representations of Asmara online and offline reveal what is at stake in different ways of imagining the city. Through representing their capital city in their own ways, Eritreans reclaim it from Westerners who see it as a colonial achievement, and they challenge the power of the Eritrean state to control the city and what it means to be Eritrean. To these ends, diaspora and cyberspace both offer terrains for interpreting and imagining Asmara and thereby exploring, contesting, and constructing Eritrea’s past, present, and futures.

Inscriptions obligatoires: Marie Deridder
 

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