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Racial Dimensions of US Post-9/11 Counterterrorism and the Conflict in Burkina Faso

The Race and Ethnic Studies Institute (RESI), invites you to attend our upcoming virtual Colloquium on Tuesday, January 25 at 12PM CST. Dr. Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Cost of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, will be presenting the current conflict in Burkina Faso and the US role in it. 

As part of its post-9/11 military operations, the United States provides counterterrorism “training and assistance” to dozens of countries, many of them in Africa. Through the case of Burkina Faso, Dr. Stephanie Savell examines the profound costs of so-called assistance for other nations in waging their own “wars on terror.” The US has provided counterterrorism funding and training to Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in the west African Sahel, since 2009, but it was only several years later that the country began to experience militant violence linked to what local people call “jihadism.” US counterterrorism in Burkina Faso, and Africa more generally, manifests racism through tropes about the need to extend central government authority to what the US military calls “undergoverned spaces” – that is, the state peripheries that are home to minority Muslim ethnic groups, among others. Burkina Faso’s government has used the US narrative of counterterrorism, along with its accompanying financial, political, and institutional resources, to repress the Fulani, a minority group of herders who have practiced Islam since long before the colonial era. The Burkinabe state also uses counterterrorism to justify authoritarianism and obscure the need to address poverty and other structural problems that lead to widespread frustration with the state. Dr. Savell parses the racialized dimensions of the current conflict in Burkina Faso and the US role in it, and argues that US-supported counterterrorism has fed insecurity, intensifying militant violence by fueling resentment against government injustices. 

Stephanie Savell is co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. She is an anthropologist of militarism, security, and civic engagement, focused particularly on the US post-9/11 wars and on militarized policing in Rio de Janeiro favelas. Savell has published in a number of academic journals, including American Ethnologist and PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, as well as media outlets such as The Guardian, the Smithsonian magazine, Axios, and The Nation, and is co-author of The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life (Routledge, 2014). 

This event will be hosted virtually on Tuesday, January 25 at 12 PM CST. Join us via Zoom by clicking the following link the day of the event: RESI Colloquium Event