SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Mr Richard F. Akum

MA (AU-Cairo), MA (AU/SIS-Washington DC)
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Richard Akum
Mr Richard F. Akum
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Thesis title:
Order, Authority and Social Control: Borderland Dynamics and Postwar Statebuilding in Liberia
Year of Study:
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Richard Fonteh Akum is a PhD student in the Department of Politics and International Studies.

PhD Research

This study explores international statebuilding in practice as comprising multi-centered sites of disaggregated recursive encounters. These patterns emerge from the mutual transforming outcomes of engagement between varied interest-driven borderland social actors; the emergent disaggregated postwar state; and policy-driven interventionary postwar statebuilding architects and processes. International statebuilding constitutes a distinct set of top-down ordering processes that seek to re-monopolize the legitimate use of violence within an autonomous and centralized rational-legal authority (the state) while enhancing its relations to society. The centrality of borderland dynamics to postwar statebuilding outcomes is thus based on configurative (constitutive), interactive and process-related assumptions. For, it is within liminal borderland spaces that the authority of the re-emergent postwar sovereign and its ability to exercise effective territorial control is continually tested.

Turning the interpretive lens to how borderland communities engage with postwar statebuilding, this research project elucidates the implications of social ordering processes that take place outside the state – yet in engagement with the state and international actors – on the consolidation of international statebuilding. These ordering processes inscribed in routine daily practices at the state’s margins – its borderlands – are often historically embedded, socially organized, structurally amorphous and largely informal. A comparative political ethnography based on two borderland research sites – Foya (Lofa County) and Ganta (Nimba County) – evidences co-existing processes of informal ordering and ordering of informality, which result in the crystallization of embedded authority and social controls. Far from generating hybrid governance mechanisms within broader international statebuilding frameworks, they evolve arenas of domination and opposition. These arenas evidence the sophisticated appropriation of international statebuilding by spatially, symbolically and socially embedded borderland actors.


  • R. Akum (2015). Rogue, Rogue, Rogue… - Marketscapes, Criminality and Society in Liberia’s Postwar Borderlands. On Mats Utas’ Blog
  • R. Akum & M. Vonhm (2015). Liberia’s Postwar Constitution Review: A Tale of Mistrust and Uncertainty. On Africa@LSE Blog
  • R. Akum (2014) Ebola in Liberia: Anatomy of a Politicized Response. On the Royal African Society’s African Arguments
  •  R. Akum (2014). The Central African Republic Crisis: Conflating Form and Substance. On the Social Science Research Council’s Online Peacebuilding “Kujenga Amani” Forum
  • E. Alaga & R. Akum (2013) “Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges”. Book chapter in Denis Blair (Ed.) Military Engagement: Influencing Armed Forces Worldwide to Support Democratic Transitions. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.


  • R. Akum. (2015). Building Horizontal Inequalities into Liberia’s Post-war States. Inequality, Peace and Conflict: Fourth International Association for Peace and Conflict Studies University of Manchester (10 September 2015).
  • R. Akum (2014). Borderland Entrepreneurs in Encounter with Postwar States in Liberia. Rethinking Violence, Reconstruction and Reconciliation: 57th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association – USA. Indianapolis, Indiana (21 November 2014)
  • R. Akum (2014). Problematizing Borderland Dynamics in Post-war Governance: The Case of Liberia. Bradford Peace Studies at 40 International Conference (2 May 2014).


  • Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
  • Royal African Society
  • British International Studies Association – Africa Working Group
  • African Studies Association (USA)
  • Africa Borderland Research Network
  • International Association for Peace and Conflict Studies


Everyday Patterns of Society-State Interaction; International Intervention; Statebuilding; Peacebuilding; Political Ethnography; Borders and Borderlands; Resilience.