Current Institutional Affiliation
Bolin Fellow, Environmental Studies, Williams College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of California / Berkeley
Securing the Sahel: Nature, Catastrophe, and New Frontiers of Foreign Expertise

My dissertation considers the proliferation of foreign-led security interventions in the present-day West African Sahel. I argue that the region has become a privileged site in the making of novel forms of security expertise, which render a range of seemingly disparate events as threats: Islamic terrorist organizations, narcotics and weapons trafficking, migration induced by economic precarity, and the effects of anthropogenic climate change. I investigate how a diverse series of challenges—terrorism, migration, famine, drought—are drawn together under a governing rubric of security. Furthermore, I argue that the Sahel has emerged as a limit case for security efforts, as foreign commentators continue to anticipate a looming catastrophic future for the region. Through a mix of ethnographic and archival methods situated in two regional nodes—Dakar, Senegal and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso—my proposed research project traces the development and implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS). I approach the Sahel as an experimental security frontier of multiple intervening forces—where climate scientists, aid workers, and human rights activists interface with military personnel, counterterrorism strategists, and anti-narcotics experts. And my project contemplates the interdependent and contradicting logics that orient militarism and policing, food and climate monitoring, while also exploring the forms of expertise created through the imbrication of such efforts.The proposed research seeks to offer a timely empirical study about the refashioning of the Sahel as a geographic site in need of continuous foreign-led monitoring and security.