Joel Van De Sande

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Columbia U.

Grant number

Gr. 10161

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Van De Sande, Joel (Columbia U.) "Security and Sovereignty, Exchanges and Encounters in Djibouti"

Djibouti, home to the largest U.S. military base in Africa, is said to contain more foreign military bases than any other country in the world. Situated along Bab Al-Mandeb and a key site for trade, war, and international projections of power, it is a place where diverse militarization puts into question the relationship between economic and political sovereignty and where security interests of global superpowers articulate with the ambitions of a smaller state. This research examines the competition, exertion, and transformation of U.S. military influence and power in this scene of transnational military governance, and the effects and fallout of external military interests by focusing on everyday Djiboutian life. A country with little productive economic base of its own, the state performs the complex, quotidian work of translating foreign strategy and geopolitical fate into commercial advantage, and political and economic capital, using its denizens as translators. In the militarized context of Djibouti, how are problems of sovereignty and security (as simultaneously architecture, operation, sense) navigated, negotiated, and experienced? What does it mean to make a living as a host to others, to maintain one’s own interests while serving as a site of projection for the interests of others?