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Accepted paper:



Melina Kalfelis (MIASA)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the concept of punishment at the intersection of security, moralities and future-making. The focus will be on ambiguous security practices of a vigilante group in Burkina Faso and a reflection on the dark side of approaches to security in the context of weak statehood.

Paper long abstract:

In 2015, the vigilante groups of Koglweogo (kogle "to protect"; weogo "bush land") spread through Burkina Faso to fight thievery and restore security in communities. On the basis of extra-legal hearings, Koglweogo pronounces judgements on criminal cases and imposes physical punishments. These mainly entail whiplashes and terms of imprisonments, which is why Koglweogo is accused of human rights violations. Participatory observations with the group revealed that Koglweogo attaches moral means and ends to their political agenda. One of their main justifications is a moral decay in conjunction with a growing distrust in communities. And indeed, during the extra-legal hearings it turned out that many crimes had taken place between relatives and neighbours. Against this background, Koglweogo claims to "rectify" accused delinquents through punishment ("on va le corriger"). Put differently, the groups instil fear and arbitrariness in the present in order to create security in the future. This paper explores the concept of punishment at the intersection of security, moralities and future-making; a link that becomes obvious in relation to weak statehood. Punishment, in one way or the other, is institutionalized in each national approach to security. However, if the government cannot apply respective mechanisms, like it is the case in Burkina Faso, crime rates rise. Koglweogos' punishments therefore constitute a measure to finally hold people accountable and thereby discourage misconduct in the future. The paper will focus on the ambiguities of such self-determined punishments in the name of security and reflect on presumably dark sides of security practices.

panel P116
The Future in Security: ethnographies of security at the edge of tomorrow [Anthropology of Security Network, ASN]