Politics of circulation: The makings of the Berbera corridor in Somali East Africa

This article explores the co-production of political order and circulation in what today is known as Berbera corridor, a trade and transport corridor that connects landlocked Ethiopia and Berbera Port in the breakaway Republic of Somaliland. We analyse the ‘politics of circulation’ that are set in motion by the articulation of different projects of making goods circulate and capturing revenue from circulation. Such politics involve a plurality of rationalities, the emergence of technologies that seek to balance circulation and security, and substantial elements of anticipation. Our empirical analysis focuses on three overarching projects of circulation: Somaliland’s foundational state-building-based-on-circulation project of the 1990s; shifting Ethiopian customs regimes and strategies to discipline and capture cross-border trading and livestock exports in the 2000s; and the transnational state-of-the-art corridor project of the 2010s. The article depicts Berbera corridor as a state-building frontier as well as a frontier of global logistical networks and rationalities, where new agents of circulation rearrange relations between former ones and cut across international as well as public/private boundaries.

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Volume 37 Issue 5

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