At the Borders of Sovereignty: An Anthropological Study of Somaliland State Formation Investigated through the Case of Hargeisa Egal International Airport

Tobias Gandrup

Studenteropgave: Speciale


In this thesis, I set out to explore Somaliland state formation – an internationally unrecognised breakaway state. Instead of analysing the official policies and centralised state institutions as previous studies have focussed on, I analyse Somaliland state formation in one of the margins of the state: Hargeisa Egal International Airport. I analyse historical and contemporary state formation processes by turning the analytical lens towards this particular border site of the state. Based on material produced through seven weeks of fieldwork in Hargeisa in March and April, 2014, I unfold state formation processes through three main themes: 1) the historical transformations of airport functions, 2) the current renovation and securitisation projects of the airport and 3) everyday encounters between airport agents and individuals. One of the main findings of the thesis shows that airport’s functions have been recast in relation to surrounding dynamics and types of state rule. The history of the airport reveals that the airport has been an arena in which various actors have fought over the control of the airport. I found that the airport has been, and still is, central in the narration of the Somaliland state formation. Secondly, by looking at two current rehabilitation projects at the airport, I illustrate that a web of transnational actors and international airport norms help shape the current reformation of the airport. I argue that by looking at the reformation of the airport it becomes evident that state formation in Somaliland proceeds by the state’s strategic use of external resources and ties depicting a rather different state process than the one that can be found in the predominant analysis of Somaliland state formation. Thirdly, through observations and analysis of the everyday encounters at the airport, I illustrate that the state makes the individual visible to the state and the state visible to the individual. This I argue manifests the image of a sovereign state. Lastly, examples from different field observations indicate that state practices are constantly contested and negotiated in and around the airport. Thus, the overall finding is that state formation occurs in multiple arenas across the Somaliland territory and much can be learned by moving our analytical lens towards the margins of the state. It is in the margins of the state that one can meet the actors who constantly (re)form, construct, contest, and negotiate the state in everyday interactions. Margins are thus competent places for analysing and nuancing state formations.

UddannelserInternationale Studier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato31 okt. 2014
VejledereTobias Hagmann


  • Sovereignty
  • Somaliland
  • Airport
  • Africa
  • State formation
  • Mobility
  • Margins