Sahara or Sahel? The Fuzzy Geography of Terrorism in West Africa

CEPS/INSTEAD Working Papers No. 2010-35

20 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2011

See all articles by Olivier Walther

Olivier Walther

University of Florida; University of Southern Denmark

Denis Retaillé

University of Bordeaux - Michel de Montaigne University Bordeaux 3

Date Written: November 6, 2010

Abstract

Since the mid-2000s, terrorism has pushed the peripheries of West Africa into the news and the public eye. While the political implications of this phenomenon have been extensively documented, most commentators have adopted a zonal approach to terrorism in which the Sahel and the Sahara are usually confused. This paper assumes that this confusion dramatically highlights the failure of academic and common geography to think beyond territories in West Africa, and to move away from a ‘sedentary’ vision of West African societies. The paper contributes to an understanding of the geographical locations of terrorism in West Africa by showing, firstly, what the main reasons behind the current confusion between the Sahel and Sahara are. Secondly, we show that this confusion arose from a territorial vision of space, which has important implications not only for local economic activities, but also for our own understanding of the spatiality of networks in West Africa.

Keywords: terrorism, space, networks, social networks analysis, Sahel, West Africa

JEL Classification: C81, D85, L14

Suggested Citation

Walther, Olivier and Retaillé, Denis, Sahara or Sahel? The Fuzzy Geography of Terrorism in West Africa (November 6, 2010). CEPS/INSTEAD Working Papers No. 2010-35. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1803996 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1803996

Olivier Walther (Contact Author)

University of Florida ( email )

425 Grinter Hall
Gainesville, FL 32611
United States

University of Southern Denmark ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense, 5000
Denmark

Denis Retaillé

University of Bordeaux - Michel de Montaigne University Bordeaux 3 ( email )

France

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