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Navigational Tools for Central African Roadblocks

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Abstract

This article explores the politics of roadblocks in the northeastern reaches of the Central African Republic. Over the past 30 years, roadblocks have become widespread in this area of extremely minimal state institutional presence; they are one symptom of broader processes of militarization. Building on work that sees the state as a set of practices with “magical” effects, I foreground the unpredictability and negotiation that characterize roadblock encounters to show how they challenge the dominant theories of governance in “stateless” spaces. Though roadblock workers invoke the idea of the all-powerful state in order to qualify themselves with authorities to dispossess travelers, their practices end up strengthening noncentralized modes of rule, and particularly quests for personal profit.

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