Trade Makes States

Governing the Greater Somali Economy

Part of the African Arguments series
March 2023 9781787387058 312pp


Trade Makes States highlights how trade and the circulation of goods are central to Somali societies, economies and politics. Drawing on multi-site research from across East Africa’s Somali-inhabited economic space–which includes areas of Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda and Ethiopia–this volume highlights the interconnection between trade and state-building after state collapse. It scrutinises the ‘politics of circulation’ between competing public administrations, which seek to generate revenue and to control infrastructures along major trade corridors.

Connecting classic debates on state formation with recent scholarship on logistics and cross-border trading, Trade Makes States argues that the facilitation and capture of commodity flows have been instrumental in making and unmaking states across the Somali territories. Aspiring state-builders are thus confronted with the challenge of governing the flow of goods in order to rule over lands and peoples.

The contributors to this volume draw attention to the ingenuities of transnational Somali markets, which often appear to be self-governed. Their dynamism and everyday administration by a host of actors provide important insights into contemporary state formation on the margins of global supply-chain capitalism.


Tobias Hagmann is a research consultant and Associate Professor at Roskilde University, studying politics and state-society relations in the Horn of Africa.

Finn Stepputat is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, working on conflict, state sovereignty and the politics of dead bodies.

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