Here be dragons: Mapping an ethnography of global danger
For a brief post-Cold War moment, it seemed as if global division would yield to connectivity as marginal regions would be rewired into the world economy. Instead, the post–9/11 years have seen the spread of ever-larger “no-go zones,” seen as constituting a danger especially to Western states and citizens. Contact points are reduced as aid workers withdraw, military operations are conducted from above, and few visitors, reporters, or researchers dare venture beyond the new red lines. Casting an eye on this development while building on anthropology’s critical security agenda, this article draws an ethnographic map of “global danger” by showing how perceived transnational threats—terrorism, drugs, and displacement—are conjured, bundled, and relegated to world margins, from the sub-Saharan Sahel to the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Mali, it shows how a relationship by remote control has developed as Western interveners seek to overcome a fundamental dilemma: their deep concern with threats emanating from the danger zone set against their aversion toward entering it. As ambivalent sites of distance and engagement, I argue, such zones are becoming invested with old fantasies of remoteness and otherness, simultaneously kept at arm’s length and unevenly incorporated into a world economy of risk.