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VIOLENCE, JUST IN TIME: War and Work in Contemporary West Africa



The recent war in Sierra Leone and Liberia is connected in both the scholarly literature and the popular imaginary to the global economy via the diamond trade. Yet there is another way to think the connection between war and work. In this article, I ask what it would mean to think of the violence young men in the region's militia movements performed as a mode of post-Fordism. This stands in sharp contrast to recent writing on conflict in Africa, writing that focuses on how violence is a process of identity formation. By contrast, I suggest that “identity” was not a problematic category for fighters in this war. Their own identities could be comfortably contradictory, and the identities of their enemies were a minor issue at best. What mattered was the work of violence, work that increasingly took on the character of emergent modes of what has been called “just-in-time” production.