Spatializing the study of African Peace and Security
Applying the above considerations to the study of African Peace and Security means to identify, follow and analyze: (i) spatial semantics in various forms of text produced by actors at African ROs; (ii) the concrete actors that drive or contribute to space-making during conflict interventions (i.e., spatial actors); (iii) their spatializing practices; as well as (iv) the specific sites where all of this takes place.28 Through such an analysis, African peace and security dynamics, and in particular APSA and conflict interventions by different actors at African ROs, become visible as complex multidimensional processes, constantly ‘in the making’. These involve continuous negotiation and contestation among different actors (Chapter 6) both within and across African ROs, linked to particular spatial imaginations (Chapter 5), employing different practices at different interconnected sites (Chapters 3 and 4) - all of which contributes to space-making.
Several insights emerge from this, which help us to understand, describe and theorize better how African ROs operate, internally and in relation to other actors, and how they act during conflict interventions. First, interested in how space is constructed, formatted and ordered, a spatial approach directs attention to what actors at ECOWAS and the AU actually do (practices) when they respond to conflict in their respective regions, going beyond official ambitions, claims and rhetoric. Second, it sheds more light on who exactly does what (actors), thereby contributing to an increasing unpacking of African ROs as unitary actors. Following spatial actors and their practices (including patterned speech acts), then, allows us to see how ‘ECOWAS’ and the ‘AU’ emerge as complex, collective actors during conflict interventions and forge specific connections ‘internally’, among different African ROs, as well as with other regional or international actors. It allows us to see connections and entanglements and to move between different sites and scales, which different
A spatial approach to peace and security 53 actors deem relevant and give meaning to. It also allows us to see how multiple, simultaneous processes, agendas and projects intersect.
In the remaining chapters of this book, therefore, I describe ‘ECOWAS’ and the AU’ as political and spatial projects with partly overlapping sets of multiple and entangled actors and practices. In that respect, conflict interventions constitute moments of particularly dense interaction, which allow the study of many of these aspects and dynamics while they are ‘at work’.