Dr Hyab Yohannes

  • Research Associate, Graduate Teaching Assistant (School of Education)

Biography

Hyab is a researcher with a Ph.D. in the Realities of Eritrean Refugees in a Carceral Age from the University of Glasgow, where he currently works as a research associate. He has extensive research experience in undertaking fieldwork, interviews, critical evaluation and interpretation, computer-based data analysis and evaluation. Moreover, he possesses strong decolonial and critical thinking skills and brings unique experience and perspective to migration-related policy development and implementation. He is interested in theorising the challenges forced migrants face and the biopolitical b/ordering that led to their challenges and contributing towards a positive change.

In his current role as a research associate, Hyab is involved in:

  • Undertaking research and the synthesis of findings, and divergence of approaches to provide innovative insights in relation to theoretical, methodological and policy-oriented questions.
  • Drawing together expertise from a range of disciplines including theatre studies, arts practice, languages, literature and cultural studies, gender studies, anthropology, sociology and decolonial studies.
  • Developing and building upon established academic and non-academic collaborations with a range of partners.

Research interests

Hyab's PhD project examines the realities of Eritrean refugees in their process of becoming, and the conditions of being, refugees. Underpinned by ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions of critical realism, the PhD research considers the what, how, and why questions that underpin Eritrean refugees’ realities of becoming, and the conditions of being, refugees. Its key findings fall into three broad categories:

  • The thesis finds that Eritreans are born into, and live in, conditions of lawlessness and rightlessness that began with the colonial occupation of what is now known as Eritrea, and these conditions have been maintained by the only government that has ruled the country since its independence. This precarious condition of ‘no-laws nor rights’, and the modalities of punishment and control the government has imposed on the Eritrean people, explains why the country has been haemorrhaging its youthful population.
  • Due to their unprotected status, Eritrean refugees have been left stranded indefinitely in exclusive biopolitical entanglements and necropolitical experimentations, in which they have been treated as disposable corporealities that are always available for exploitation, violence, and removal without accountability.
  • The disenfranchisement of the refugees, and the collapse of all their human experiences and relations into indefinite modalities of precarity, carcerality and (im)mobility, has led to the total negation of their humanity. In these conditions, occurrences of dehumanisation and depoliticisation of Eritrean refugees are endless; murder is not unusual, nor is it a crime.

In presenting these findings, Hyab does not only investigate the realities of being an Eritrean refugee but also how processes and intertwined power relations interplay with causal powers and contextual circumstances that are responsible for the relegation of Eritrean lives to the precarious condition of being unliveable and ungrievable.

Through these findings, Hyab's thesis makes three key contributions:

  • Exposing the gaps in human rights discourses and esoteric political imaginations, it offers an alternative approach to understanding the perplexing nature of the state of Eritrea and the realities of the people fleeing the county, by suggesting a total absence of law and rights, using the rule of ‘no-laws nor rights’ as a starting point.
  • The thesis looks at how, in their constant struggle for survival and political existence, refugees play a disruptive role by shaking the principles upon which the nation-state system has been built. Agamben makes this case from a Euro-centric perspective, thus he fails to see the links between the ‘world of modernity’ and the ‘world of coloniality’, and hence, the subjectivities these worlds create, shape, and reproduce.
  • Drawing on clues from seminal thinkers in the fields of sovereignty and biopolitics, such as Arendt, Foucault and Agamben, the thesis opens new areas of criticism to further our understanding of the role of the state in the biopolitical b/ordering of societies and the policing of the ability to qualify as human.

Through his PhD work and subsequent research, Hyab seeks to impact and effect change at four inter-related domains:

  1. Empirical domain – to uncover and document multiple axes of immobility and precarity and discounted capabilities. 
  2. Structural domain – to examine the concrete structures that led to the lived experiences, such as the rule of “no-laws nor rights” in Eritrea and the ‘carceral continuum’ with its borders, asylum regimes and humanitarian responses.
  3. Policy domain – to promote a) "decolonial" and more humane immigration policies; b) safe passages and hospitable reception zones; c) human-centered, trauma-informed and decolonial asylum systems; and d) "restorative integration" strategies.
  4. Conceptual domain – to examine modes of production and administration of power that are responsible for biopolitical exploitation, collective indignation and loss of rights of refugees.

Publications

List by: Type | Date

Grants

2018 – 2021

  • UNESCO RILA Scholarship: UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (CRILA) Ph.D. Scholarship to undertake Ph.D. project The Realities of Eritrean Refugees in a Carceral Age. The scholarship covered tuition fees and provides a stipend at the RCUK Stipend Level.

2016

  • SOAS University of London Sanctuary Scholarships
  • Prisoners of Conscience Bursaries

Professional activities & recognition

Professional & learned societies

  • 2020: Fellow, RSE Young Academy of Scotland
  • 2021: Council Member, International Survivors of Trafficking Advisory Council (ISTAC)
  • 2017: Charity Management Committee Member, Right to Remain UK

Selected international presentations

  • 2021: Competence building, assistance provision and prevention of trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation (Online)
  • 2019: Global Migration Conversations: AHRC ESRC Migration Leadership Team Event, Glasgow (Glasgow, UK)
  • 2019: ENU Migration and Mobilities Research Network: Annual Conference 2019 (Edinburgh Napier University)
  • 2019: Neuchatel Graduate Conference (University of Neuchatel, Switzerland)

Additional information

Co-authored Articles

  • Yohannes, H.T and Yemane, T.Y, 2020. From structural vulnerability to resilience: A reflexive essay on refugee-led responses to COVID-19. Rational Justice Network – UK. Link
  • Phipps, A and Yohannes, H.T, 2020. Eritrean culture comes to the fore as part of UNESCO’s 75th birthday. The National. Link
  • Yohannes, H.T and Yemane, T.H, 2022. What if we were to open up the university to "decolonial praxis"? UNESCO RILA blogs. Link 

Personal Reflections

Hyab's personal blog site has more than a dozen of personal reflections.