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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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Repair Work

Repair Work

(p.109) Chapter 8 Repair Work
Policing the Frontier

Mirco Göpfert

Cornell University Press

This chapter addresses how the gendarmes consider the criminal law as profoundly unjust. The Nigerien penal code (Code Pénal) and code of criminal procedure (Code de Procédure Pénale) both originate from the colonial era and still contain largely unadapted elements of it. According to the gendarmes, these outdated and “foreign” laws were largely inappropriate for policing the life worlds of the people they confronted. From the paradigmatic and law-centered perspective, the gendarmes' arrangements appear as the discretion-led, under-enforcement of the law. The chapter then suggests a perspective that is more sensitive to those actors' views and practices and takes seriously local concepts of law enforcement, dispute settlement, and the search for justice, in this case: gyara, repair work. Seen in that light, the gendarmes repaired a law that they deemed unjust. Not its application, but the law itself was deficient. What was at stake in such instances was the nature of the law and the state itself. The gendarmes had the power to declare the state of exception and act outside the law in defense of law, but they also had the power to declare an “exception to the state.”

Keywords:   gendarmes, criminal law, Nigerien penal code, code of criminal procedure, policing, arrangements, law enforcement, dispute settlement, gyara

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