Marginal Development – States, Markets and Violence in Drug-Affected Borderlands


Marginal Development – States, Markets and Violence in Drug-Affected Borderlands

Anthropology and Development Studies seminar series

In many parts of the world, frontier and borderland regions are sites of state fragility and entrenched war economies, often fuelled by illicit drugs. This talk draws upon a four-year Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project led by SOAS, University of London, entitled 'Drugs & (Dis)order: Building Peacetime Economies in the Aftermath of War', which focuses on how to transform illicit drug economies into peace economies in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar.

Drugs-intensified borderlands are frequently represented as either lagging regions left behind by wider development processes, or dangerous hot spots and ungoverned zones that export ‘public bads’ in the forms of terrorism, illicit good and wider insecurity. The antidote to ‘borderland pathologies’ is perceived to lie in the integration of these regions, through the expansion of markets and state institutions. Yet this ‘diffusionist narrative’ misses the essential characteristics and dynamics of change in state margins; these are regions of intense interconnectivity linked into national and global circuits of commodities, capital and investment.

War economies and peace economies, centres and margins, are connected to one another in complex and co-dependent relations. Metropolitan centres, nationally and globally, may become shaped by, or indeed dependant on, processes of resource extraction, conflict and development in the margins. Rather than simply being reflective of power relations at the centre, these marginal spaces can become critical sites of experimentation and innovation that are often constitutive of new political and economic orders. Starting from the margins, it is argued, offers a privileged vantage point for better understanding the nexus between drugs, development and conflict.


  • Professor Jonathan Goodhand
    Professor Jonathan Goodhand, Professor in Conflict and Development Studies