AXA Research Fund

The risk crucible: managing multiple insecurities in the western Sahel

This concluded project, financed by the AXA Research Fund, looked comparatively at remote-controlled interventions and the partial withdrawal of international actors from global crisis zones, taking as its starting point the conflict in Mali, West Africa, and the confluence of risks which international interveners have been dealing with there – including, besides security and livelihoods, the perceived ‘risk’ of migration.

It explored, among other aspects, how a relationship by remote control has developed as powerful external interveners seek to overcome a fundamental dilemma: their growing concern with perceived threats emanating from distant ‘danger zones’ – including as regards insecurity, displacement and illicit cross-border flows – set against their aversion towards entering these zones. As interveners develop remote control mechanisms to overcome this dilemma, via technology or through the subcontracting of dangerous frontline tasks, unforeseen consequences may ensue and distance grow to local societies.

The project was based on fieldwork in Mali as well as comparative research on other countries hit by conflict and insecurity, including Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan. Project outcomes have included articles on topics such as risk management in crisis zones and the mapping of global danger (Current Anthropology 2016), as well as the book No Go World: How fear is redrawing our maps and infecting our politics (University of California Press 2019).