Beyond the Gatekeeper State: African Infrastructure Hubs as Sites of Experimentation

Jana Hönke

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    While Africa has often been portrayed as peripheral to major global economic flows, the copper mines in the South of the DRC as much as the port of Dar es Salaam are hubs of extraction and trade at the heart of the global economy. This article departs from the notion of the gatekeeper state that locates the production of islands of effective state territoriality around gates (e.g. ports, mines) in the colonial encounter, producing postcolonial states that effectively control only enclaves and corridors of their territory. These form the basis for an outward and extraction-oriented political economy. This paper proposes to reconceptualise gatekeeping as a set of practices performed by a range of actors, including but not limited to governments. I argue that this brings into view how the political geography of gates is being transformed by a multitude of actors. It is also shaped by powerful transnational technical systems and logistics. Empirically, this will be explored through a study of Dar and Bagamoyo port in Tanzania. The conclusion highlights how studying gatekeeping (and –gaining) practices around ports diversifies our understanding of political transformations around gates and helps to go beyond theories based on more often studied extractive industries.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)347-363
    Number of pages17
    JournalThird World Thematics: A TWQ Journal
    Issue number3
    Early online date18-Apr-2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • political geography
    • china
    • Dubai model
    • Africa
    • state reconfiguration
    • ports
    • infrastructure

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