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Crossing Borders, Crossing Sovereignty: An Ethnography of Local Practices of Regulation of Translocal Flows and Reconfigurations of Sovereignty beyond, within and with the State in Sierra Leone (working title)

Author Michael Bürge
Director of thesis Prof. Shalini Randeria
Co-director of thesis Dr. Gerhard Anders
Summary of thesis The aim of this project is to describe and analyse interlinked actors, structures and technologies involved in the regulation of the economy, trade and security in and beyond Sierra Leone, and how these factors fragment, reconfigure and transform local fields of power and sovereignty. Against the common definition of Sierra Leone as a 'weak state', with dysfunctional authorities, a corrupt bureaucracy and a rock-bottom economy, my research examines the actual interdependent workings of the state and society and its contingent and contextual cultural logics in regulating flows of goods, capit - al, people and knowledge crossing1 the nation-state's boundaries. The study builds on contacts made with transnational actors during extended previous research in this region and the insights into their struggles and collaboration with state agents. Using participant observation, extensive interviews along the transport routes, and policy analysis in national and international offices and outposts, I will examine, how claims about the state's privilege to regulate flows, to erect and control territorial, political, social boundaries and make them permeable, are expressed, defended and challenged. Focusing on daily practices of producers, traders, and transporters and their encounters with state agents managing the regulation of movements (police, customs, migration) due to national and supranational policies and personal interest, the research examines how regulation of circulation is negotiated. Facilitation of desired circulation always implies restriction of those less desired. Encounters of smugglers, 'criminals', traders, and state agents serve as a lens to hone understanding of practices and technologies deployed by the state to claim and perform its authority and sovereignty in (trans)national trade and mobility. Likewise, concession and denial of these privileges by the citizens will be disclosed, blurring the division of citizens and state. Motivations and subjectivations of individuals will be highlighted, complicating and refining the partial accounts about impacts of globalisation and neoliberal restructuring. The research thus contributes to the debate on African states' authority and sovereignty and the concomitant restructuring and reconfiguration of modes of governance under global economic liberalisation and apparent democratisation. Equally, it depicts people negotiating their daily life under these shifts in governance of and power in the contemporary.
Administrative delay for the defence
URL http://www.ethno.uzh.ch/aboutus/people/michaelbuerge.html