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Hultin (2010) Repositioning the Front Lines? Reflections on the Ethnography of African Securityscapes

Hultin, N. (2010). "Repositioning the Front Lines? Reflections on the Ethnography of African Securityscapes." African Security 3(2): 104-125.

Niklas Hultin
Publication date: 
This article reviews writings by anthropologists and scholars in adjacent fields that take an ethnographic approach to political security and its institutions to argue that this scholarship suggests two modes of critique beneficial to understanding security processes in Africa. One mode is contrastive and emphasizes vernacular conceptions of security, whereas the other is immanent and discursive (complementing“securitization” and the Copenhagen School). The argument is that when it comes to African security, there is a significant body of work in the former vein but less in the latter vein. As a result, the conception of African “otherness” is boosted at the detriment of a more nuanced understanding of formal African security actors. The essay ends with some methodological reflections on the ethnography of African security institutions, based on the author’s research on small arms control in the Gambia.