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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Twins' Diverging Trajectories? Drug Trafficking and Political Reordering in Mali and Niger

Organised Crime
Political Sociology
Luca Raineri
Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna
Luca Raineri
Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna
Francesco Strazzari
Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna

How do we understand and explain continuities and disruptions in the making and un-making of fragile states exposed to transnational organized crime? Through the lenses of historical political sociology, recent scholarship has shed light on decentralised, bottom-up patterns of order-making and un-making that are rooted in the agency of big men, their trans-local networks and their policing, with a particular focus on African polities. Building on this perspective, the paper investigates the divergent trajectories followed by Mali and Niger after the conflagration of Libya in 2011, in spite of structural similarities. Navigating analytical tensions between longue-durée perspectives and a micro-political economic focus, we explore how the rise of cross-border extralegal networks of drug trafficking has deformed and transformed the distribution of the symbolic and material resources of power and legitimacy in the Saharan space. The paper hypothesises that these dynamics - filtered through ambiguous international programmes of security assistance and stabilisation - have impacted differently on the making of a neopatrimonial political order built around state-sponsored protection rackets in Mali and Niger, resulting in different degrees of resilience vis-à-vis the destabilisation of the Saharan regional security complex. These claims are corroborated by data collected during extensive fieldwork that we have conducted in Mali and Niger since 2013.
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