Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Yale University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Duke University
Raiding Sovereignty in Central African Borderlands

My project focuses on raiding and sovereignty in the northeastern borderlands of the Central African Republic (CAR), on the margins of Darfur. A number of overlapping forces, institutions, and interests patrol and regulate the area, but none maintains total sovereignty. Newly-arrived NGOs and UN agencies collaborate with local leaders, but among these internationally-supported enclaves, logics of raiding rule. This place has long produced bounty for militarized entrepreneurs and raiders from neighboring areas, who seek resources, land, and labor. But while seizing resources, raiders also govern space and people. These repeated external raids have shaped internal power and knowledge formations throughout CAR's history. Today, raiding in CAR ties into global trade networks, and bumps up against, though also feeds off, transnational conflict prevention and humanitarian regimes. Theories of the state tend to sideline raiders' roles, and the categories used by international agencies do not address them either. I seek to explore the dynamics of raiding in two sites: one, the northeastern town of N'dele, where conservation militias combat Sudanese poachers and have to contend with an ivory-funded sultan-mayor (the grandson of the sultan who held power at the height of the trans-Saharan slave trade); the other, nearby Sam Ouandja, where the United Nations oversees a camp of refugees from neighboring Darfur adjacent to diamond mines controlled by an armed group. Through participant observation, interviews, and archival analysis, my research tracks the multiple forms of governance that operate in this borderland area and their implications for conceptions of sovereignty, the state, and international law. The findings of this research will also contribute to interdisciplinary debates about conflict and its prevention.