Railway infrastructure, remoteness, and security on the West African frontier


CALL: 2018

DOMAIN: ID - Humanities and Social Sciences

FIRST NAME: Charline




HOST INSTITUTION: University of Oxford

KEYWORDS: Security, Migration, Colonial Infrastructure, West Africa, History of Transport, Sino-African relations




Submitted Abstract

In the literature on African borders, West African frontiers have often been depicted either as places of ambivalence and uncertainty marked by the mobility of traders, nomads and migrants or as part of buffer states in the context of EU border externalisation practices restricting migration from sub-Saharan Africa towards Europe.Those accounts have generally been studied separately from each other and from more global – historical and contemporary – projects of geopolitical and economic integration as well as security cooperation. Few scholars have paid attention to how transnational practices of mobility and migration have historically been handled between sub-Saharan states and the role of global actors therein. Similarly, little work has been done on contemporary practices and rationalities underlying transnational transport and border infrastructures configuring mobility in West Africa. For example, while railways have been portrayed as invaluable for the future integration of Africa into global circuits of trade, work on current mobility in Africa mainly concentrates on the use of trucks as key transport method. In following past and future reconfigurations of a colonial railway, currently being renovated by a Chinese company, and which intersects with a new border post on the Malian-Senegalese border, this project proposes to fill these scholarly lacunae. This research looks at how the railway and border infrastructures and imaginaries of connectivity and remoteness have shaped the mobility and local perception of space, and defined economic and political territory in West African borderlands in the 20th and 21st centuries. Such a study challenges the arguably Eurocentric focus of literature on border securitisation and aims to contribute to a historical understanding of governing mobility and shifting patterns of connectivity in the context of regional cooperation and the global economy. I have received a DPhil offer from Oxford and will start the programme in October 2018.

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