A tale of regional transformation: From political community to security regions the politics of security and regionalism in West Africa

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Political Geography
Political Geography Volume 82


Abstract: This article draws attention to the intersection between the politics of regionalism and the politics of security by investigating the recent reorganisation of the West African space. It shows how international actors’ reinvestment in West Africa is driven by their security priorities, and how these actions, in particular those of the European Union, are deconstructing West Africa into smaller security regions such as the Sahel. This transformation is legitimised through a regional imaginary depicting the Sahel as a fuzzy region constituted by fluctuating boundaries of networks of organised crime and terrorism. This imaginary strongly contrasts with an earlier one that conceived of West Africa as a regional political community. The tensions between these two imaginaries raises important questions about how these perceptions emerged, which agencies and interests have driven them, and what consequences this has for the re-allocation of political authority and sovereignty practices in West Africa. Hence, drawing on International Political Sociology, Critical Geopolitics and Political Geography, this article symmetrically engages with the simultaneous processes of spatialisation of security and securitisation of space to understand the production and transformation of security regionalism in West Africa.