Overcoming Area Studies’ Policy-Relevant Research Problem: The Case of the Sahel

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Research seminar

Speaker:  Prof. Tony Chafer (University of Portsmouth)

Chair: Prof. Elisa Lopez Lucia (REPI, Université libre de Bruxelles)

Discussant: Dr Yvan Guichaoua, Senior Lecturer, Brussels School of International Studies (University of Kent)

Abstract: Despite several years of external military interventions to counter violent extremism, the security situation in the Sahel continues to deteriorate. Hard military approaches predominate in the region despite widespread recognition amongst Sahel specialists that the militarisation of the Sahel may actually be getting in the way of the search for a long-term political solution. This raises a number of questions that are important for Area Studies specialists: what type of information is brought into policymaking? Who produces it? How is it processed and what influence does it have? How does, or should, Area Studies fit within that? This paper argues that analysis undertaken by area specialists is indispensable in order to understand the complex nature of the various interlocking armed conflicts in the western Sahel. It suggests however that the type of thick description that characterises much area studies analysis can sometimes be too dense and too specific to be of immediate use to policymakers. Drawing on insights from Comparative Area Studies (intra-regional and cross-regional comparison in particular), it explores how Area Studies could contribute more effectively to policy relevant research on the Sahel.

Tony Chafer is Professor of French and African Studies. He gained his PhD, on decolonisation in French West Africa, from the University of London in 1993 and was Director of the University of Portsmouth's Centre for European and International Studies Research from 2001-2016. His main research interests lie in French African policy in the colonial and post-colonial periods and he has recently been working on  French military and security policy in Africa. He was Co-I on a major Leverhulme-funded research project Mobilising Support for Militaro-Humanitarian Interventions in Africa, 2017-20.

He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Institute of Modern Languages Research. He has acted as a consultant to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on French African policy and was president of the UK Council for Area Studies Associations (UKCASA) 2015-2019. He is a founding member of the West Africa Peace and Security Network (WAPSN).

The workshop will be held in a hybrid format. Login details will be communicated after mandatory registration via this link: https://forms.gle/RUicCtpH5dUvAB5M7

Wednesday 26 January 2022 from 12:30 till 2:00 pm 
Université libre de Bruxelles
Campus du Solbosch – IEE Geremek Room
39 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt
1050 Bruxelles
Registration required
Mask mandatory

Flyer (PDF)