||<p>This dissertation focuses on raiding and sovereignty in the Central African Republic's
(CAR) northeastern borderlands, on the margins of Darfur. A vast literature on social
evolution has assumed the inevitability of centralization. But these borderlands show
that centralization does not always occur. Never claimed by any centralizing forces,
the area has instead long been used as a reservoir of resources by neighboring areas'
militarized entrepreneurs, who seek this forest-savanna's goods. The raiders seize
resources but also govern. The dynamics of this zone, much of it a place anthropologists
used to refer to as "stateless," suggest a re-thinking of the modalities of sovereignty.
The dissertation proposes conceptualizing sovereignty not as a totalizing, territorialized
political order but rather through its constituent governing capabilities, which may
centralize or not, and can combine to create hybrid political systems. The dissertation
develops this framework through analysis of three categories of men-in-arms -- road-blockers,
anti-poaching militiamen, and members of rebel groups -- and their relationships with
international peacebuilding initiatives. It compares roadblocks and "road cutting"
(robbery) to show how they stop traffic and create flexible, personalized entitlements
to profit for those who operate them. The dissertation also probes the politics of
militarized conservation: in a low-level war that has lasted for twenty-five years,
the European Union-funded militiamen fight deadly battles against herders and hunters.
Though ostensibly fought to protect CAR's "national patrimony" (its animals and plants),
this war bolsters the sovereign capabilities of a range of non-state actors and has
resulted in hundreds of deaths in the last few years, many of them hidden in the bush.
The dissertation then shows how CAR's recent cycle of rebellion has changed governance
in rural areas. Though mobile armed groups have long operated in CAR, they used to
work as road cutters and local defense forces and only recently started calling themselves
"rebels" -- a move that has landed them in new roles as "governors" of populations
while leaving them without the welfare largess they seek. Throughout these various
raiders' projects, the idea of the all-powerful state serves as a reference point
they use to qualify themselves with sovereign authorities. But their actions as rulers
undermine the creation of the unitary political authority they desire and invoke.
Failure to appreciate these non-centralized micropolitical processes is a main reason
peacebuilding efforts (such as disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration) in
the region have failed.</p>