From Afghanistan and Yemen and from Mali to Somalia, checkpoints are central to dynamics of armed conflict, funding insurgents, driving violence and shaping governance by various types of armed actors, state and non-state alike. Nonetheless, checkpoints and roadblocks are often overlooked in debates over what drives conflict and how we should understand order in areas of contested statehood. 

The new working paper series on Roadblocks and revenues sets out to address this gap, shedding lights on checkpoints in conflict contexts across the world and providing a new window into dynamics of authority and power. The series is based on a partnership between DIIS, the International Centre for Tax and Development and the Centre on Armed Groups and a series of workshops hosted in Copenhagen (2023) and Caux (2024), which brought together an international community of scholars with a shared interest in checkpoints in conflict.

The first paper, which introduces the working paper series, shows that checkpoints constitute a distinct claim to authority with their own logic and effects on conflict dynamics and political order-making. The authors coin the idea of the politics of passage, which refers to the struggles over movement and authority that play out at roadblocks in fragile and conflict-affected settings. In addition, the authors provide a definition of roadblocks, explore the historicity of circulation struggles in relation to state formation, and outline a new research agenda on roadblocks, offering reflections from existing research and avenues for future work.

The working paper series is generously funded by the Carlsberg Foundation under the Semper Ardens: Accelerate grant ‘TRADECRAFT’. Read more about the project here.

Authors

Peer Schouten

Peer Schouten is a Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies.

Max Gallien

Max Gallien is a Research Fellow at the ICTD. His research specialises in the politics of informal and illegal economies, the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa and development politics. He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. Max co-leads the informality and taxation programme with Vanessa, as well as the ICTD’s capacity building programme.

Shalaka Thakur

Shalaka Thakur is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, where she works on the role of power in conflict zones. She has been conducting extensive field research in north-east India over the last decade, looking at armed group governance, local political economy and borderland politics.

Vanessa van den Boogaard

Vanessa van den Boogaard is a Research Fellow at the ICTD and a Senior Research Associate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD thesis on informal revenue generation and statebuilding in Sierra Leone, and has ongoing research on the topic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Vanessa leads the ICTD’s new programme on civil society engagement in tax reform and co-leads the research programme on informal taxation.

Florian Weigand

Florian Weigand is the Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Armed Groups at ODI and a Research Associate at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His work focuses on armed groups, illicit economies and international interventions and explores the politics and societal dynamics of conflict zones, borderlands, and other complex environments. He has conducted extensive research in South Asia and Southeast Asia and is the author of Waiting for Dignity: Legitimacy and Authority in Afghanistan (Columbia University Press, 2022) and Conflict and Transnational Crime: Borders, Bullets & Business in Southeast Asia (Edward Elgar, 2020) and the co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Smuggling (Routledge, 2021).
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