Research Project

Experiences amongst Eritrean exiles and refugees

Fiori Berhane is an Anthropology PhD student, researching Eritrean refugees’ responses to the migration crisis. She was an NICHD fellow in 2016-2017. Here she describes her fellowship year.

The PSTC fellowship provided me with invaluable intellectual and material support, and mentorship and feedback to develop my dissertation project, write my dissertation proposal, and defend my examinations this year. Over the course of the year, I have defended my preliminary examinations, applied to four nationally and internationally competitive dissertation research grants, and won two of those aforementioned grants.

My pre-dissertation research has been supported by the PSTC through summer research grants, and has found its intellectual roots in the demographic training that I’ve received through the Center with its focus on migration. I have presented this research at the European Association of Social Anthropologists’ meeting in Milan, Italy, in a panel entitled “European Border Regimes and the Migration Crisis.” By researching Eritrean refugees’ responses to the migration crisis, and the inter-generational and political conflicts engendered by differing migration histories and trajectories between recent arrivals and the established diaspora, my work takes on a phenomenological and qualitative approach to migration studies. I have also presented this research at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in November 2016.

Through the support of my committee member and PSTC mentor David Kertzer and committee member Jessaca Leinaweaver, I was able to successfully defend my preliminary examinations in the anthropology of Europe, with a focus on migration, race, and citizenship, and in anthropological demography, with a focus on transnationalism and border regimes. Finally, by working closely with my committee, I received the Fulbright IIE open study award to Italy and the dissertation fieldwork grant from the Wenner Gren foundation for my project entitled, “Eritrea: A Diaspora in Two Parts; Memory, Political Organizing and Refugee Experiences amongst Eritrean Exiles and Refugees in Italy.” Through the generous support of these foundations, I will spend 15 months in Bologna, Italy, conducting participant observation, semi-formal interviews, oral historical interviews, and situational analysis to answer how it is that Eritrea’s nationalist past and colonial history is remembered in light of the migration crisis gripping Europe.

The PSTC fellowship has provided me the time, material resources, and intellectual community that were instrumental in advancing my work and my graduate school career, and I am honored to have received it.

I would highly encourage PSTC trainees to attend graduate student meetings with visiting scholars. The opportunity to get individualized feedback from stars in the field has been invaluable. 

Photo courtesy of Fiori Berhane.