Abstract Spaces for Intervention in Libya and Nigeria

Debora V. Malito, Muhammad Dan Suleiman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


How is the space for contemporary interventions constructed? This article deepens our understanding of counterterrorism as a dialectical form of intervention by highlighting the importance of unifying rationalities in the creation of "ungoverned spaces"as abstract spaces for intervention purposes. We combine dialectical and decolonial thinking to track how unifying rationalities in Nigeria and Libya are deployed across cognitive, normative, and operational constructs. The article examines how interventions are cognitively tied to coloniality of knowing, being, and power, which exploit identity, religion, or societal divisions to justify ungovernance and normalize state and foreign violence. The simultaneous and reciprocal globalization of local security concerns and localization of global security predicaments facilitates the formation of abstract spaces for counterterrorism purposes. Empirically, our analysis shows how portraying Libya and Nigeria as ungoverned creates a void of meaning, putting external actors in charge of restoring governance and protecting human security, modernity, and civility. Interveners in Libya contributed to normalizing a broader spectrum of violence, frequently internalized by competing actors through their normative tropes. In Nigeria, state and foreign interventionism and counterinsurgency have been responsible for the widespread use of violence against entire communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbersqae052
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024
Externally publishedYes


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