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Policing the FrontierAn Ethnography of Two Worlds in Niger$
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Mirco Göpfert

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501747212

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501747212.001.0001

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A Handful of Gendarmes, Two Worlds, and the Frontier Between

A Handful of Gendarmes, Two Worlds, and the Frontier Between

(p.3) Chapter 1 A Handful of Gendarmes, Two Worlds, and the Frontier Between
(p.iii) Policing the Frontier

Mirco Göpfert

Cornell University Press

This chapter provides a background of the gendarmerie brigade in Godiya, one of Niger's almost sixty so-called brigades territoriales, the gendarmerie's street-level units tasked primarily with criminal investigations. The particular case of the Nigerien gendarmerie sheds light on what may be in the dark but is nonetheless essential to any police and bureaucratic organization: fragile police legitimacy, the lag between les textes and le social, between official norms and human practices, bureaucratic formats and the complexity of lived life, and all of this in the context of multiple conflicting, often incompatible expectations and demands from within and without one's own organization. While enforcing the law, the gendarmes formatted stories about peoples' lives to fit the needs of the bureaucratic form. While producing arrangements, they kept these forms and lives apart, thereby allowing for mutually compatible forms of sociality and morality. The one produced separation through connection, the other connection through separation. This ambivalent coexistence of connection and separation is what this book wants to grasp with the notion of the frontier.

Keywords:   gendarmerie brigade, Godiya, brigades territoriales, Nigerien gendarmerie, police, bureaucratic organization, bureaucracy, police legitimacy, bureaucratic formats, gendarmes

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