Sahara or Sahel? The fuzzy geography of terrorism in West Africa
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.
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