top of page

Ethnographic Accounts of Political Conflict, Transnational Histories of Decolonization

My research explores the limitations of the nation-state form to addressing contemporary global political dilemmas. Drawing on over 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Morocco, Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria, I describe the disputed borders, divided cities, and diplomatic forms of action that characterize a political conflict contingent upon the international recognition of sovereignty. I then trace the relationship between contemporary nationalist conflict and transnational histories linked to decolonization. Far from producing a collection of territorial nation-states, my research shows that decolonization in northwest Africa has resulted in a political formation constituted by displaced peoples, disputed borders and contested sovereignty. Disrupting the historiographical assumption of an “orderly” transition from European empire to a community of nation-states, the example of northwest Africa - with the Western Sahara conflict at its center - traces the duration, discontinuities and decay of a post-World War II global political order. At the intersection of political anthropology and transnational history, this research identifies a series of political sites, processes and institutions at the center of contemporary struggles over sovereignty, including borders, decolonization, state violence, and human rights.

Public, Engaged and Applied Scholarship

In writing about an ongoing political conflict, I have adapted my findings to more public fora, from publishing commentaries online with the Middle East Report and Jadaliyya to serving as an expert witness as part of a US asylum application. With recent, dramatic changes to the Western Sahara conflict, I helped to draft and circulate an open letter to President Biden, signed by over 50 colleagues, that called on the President to rescind his predecessor’s proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara. As a member of the Scientific Council for the International Academic Observatory on Western Sahara, several colleagues and I drafted a petition and statement of solidarity with Sahrawi activists that has since been translated into several languages.

For more information about the International Academic Observatory on Western Sahara, click HERE.

bottom of page