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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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Tragic Work

Tragic Work

Chapter:
(p.125) Chapter 9 Tragic Work
Source:
Policing the Frontier
Author(s):

Mirco Göpfert

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501747212.003.0009

This chapter explores the narrative of the frontier, of the gendarmes' being caught between les textes and le social, between bureaucratic form and lived life—in a lack of resolution. There is nothing beyond this tension, no safe space where the gendarmes can find certainty and protection; there is no bureaucratic haven. This tension is even accentuated by the different and often conflicting expectations of civilians, prosecutors, and the gendarmes' superiors. The gendarmes' mandate is ultimately unaccomplishable, their task impossible. The bureaucratic drama thus created both communitas and isolation at the same time. It created communitas among the gendarmes through their shared sense of frustration. But it also caused a sense of isolation as tragic creatures, with neither catastrophe nor catharsis in sight. Indeed, the gendarme is a bureaucratic Sisyphus: a frontier figure tasked with the impossible project of closing the frontier.

Keywords:   gendarmes, bureaucratic form, lived life, bureaucracy, bureaucratic drama, civilians, prosecutors

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