The contemporary world seems characterised by great uncertainty and recurrent crises: financial, environmental, political. In the world’s poorest regions – hit by the aftereffects of the global financial crunch, rising food prices, a heating climate, and cross-border violence and crime – shocks to the system are felt ever more strongly. This project – funded by the AXA Research Fund – is concerned with such zones of human insecurity or, more specifically, about the limits and possibilities of external intervention in these zones, taking Mali and the wider sub-Saharan Sahel as its starting point. To put the issues at hand simply: what to do with intractable situations such as that of the western Sahel, increasingly seen as a ‘risk crucible’ of sorts racked by poverty and hunger, climate change and displacement, drug trafficking and war? Who should do it, and how? And are the methods used by international agencies up for the task?
Besides articles, this project has resulted in the book No Go World: How fear is redrawing our maps and infecting our politics, due to be published in March 2019 by University of California Press. This is the summary:
War-torn deserts, jihadist killings, trucks weighted down with contraband and migrants—from the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands to the Sahara desert, images of danger depict a new world disorder on the global margins. With vivid detail, Ruben Andersson traverses this terrain to provide a startling new lens for understanding what is happening in remote ‘danger zones’. Instead of buying into apocalyptic visions, Andersson takes aim at how Western states and international organizations conduct military, aid and border interventions in a dangerously myopic fashion, further disconnecting the world’s rich and poor. Through drones, proxy forces, border reinforcement, and outsourced aid, risk-obsessed powers are, in effect, helping to remap the world into zones of insecurity and danger. The result is a vision of chaos crashing into fortified borders, with national and global politics increasingly infected by fear. Whether we live in Texas or Timbuktu, Andersson contends that we must redraw our global connections—and only by developing a new cartography of hope can we move beyond the political geography of fear that haunts us.
See also interview at Africa is a country, September 2019; BBC Thinking Allowed show, January 2017; the Current Anthropology article, ‘Here be dragons: Mapping an ethnography of global danger’, December 2016; and the coauthored piece ‘Double games: Success, failure and the relocation of risk in fighting terror, drugs and migration’, October 2018 (with David Keen).