Accepted paper:

Twins' diverging trajectories? Drug trafficking and political reordering in Mali and Niger


Francesco Strazzari (Scuola Universitaria Superiore Sant'Anna)
Luca Raineri (Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies)

Paper short abstract:

The paper aims to explain the divergent political trajectories of Mali and Niger after the conflagration of Libya in 2011, by focusing on the impact of drug trafficking on local patronage networks and order-making.

Paper long abstract:

How do we understand and explain continuities and disruptions in the making and un-making of Saharan states? While mainstream political science and IR theories have often taken statehood for granted, the logic of order-making in African polities remains relatively poorly understood. 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. 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 focus on 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 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.

panel Pol24
Political orders in the making: cases from inside and across the Sahara [CRG ABORNE]