Reinstating the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force continues to be the key strategy used to pacify conflict zones and rebuild so-called ‘fragile states’. At the same time, the empirically
measurable effects of state armed forces extending their reach throughout their country on people’s security are at best ambivalent. This project investigates the often paradoxical relationship between the processes of security production in the local security arena and inhabitants’ perceptions of their own security.
Why do states’ attempts to monopolize the use of force at times create divergent objective and subjective levels of security?
To date, the debate in the literature has explained the merits and pitfalls of a state monopoly on the legitimate use of violence for security, particularly from a theoretical angle. Scholars have analysed how pluralized political orders can also provide security to the populace. This project fills a gap between the two debates by investigating from an empirical angle how security is affected when the political order moves from pluralized to monopolized. It thus challenges the above-mentioned literature by asking: What happens to ‘areas of limited statehood’ when statehood is delimited? How does ‘public authority’ evolve locally when the state tries to take over? How do ‘oligopolies of violence’ adapt to monopolization attempts by the state? What is this ‘state as a process’ when the state actively seeks to extend its reach?
The analytical concept of a ‘security arena’ (Glawion 2020) will provide the framework for this study to define which data needs to be gathered, to determine how it can be analysed, and to identify causal links. A security arena is composed of actors who interact on the issue of physical integrity around a selected centre of study. The security arena is thus broadly reduced to two relational dimensions – actors and their interactions – around a spatial dimension and thereby grants common lines for comparison across contexts.
Although political science has a long tradition of comparative studies, local security comparisons have seldom been the object of qualitative research. This project attempts such an endeavour using the analytical approach of comparative area studies (CAS). The CAS approach enables scholars with profound area knowledge to compare across cases and advances theory-building by challenging European and North American assumptions with comparative empirical observations across world regions. My methodology follows the local turn, as the research project moves from the national level to local comparisons. I use site-intensive methods inspired by ethnography and integrate them into political science research to uncover generalizable ordering patterns.