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Modular Sovereignty and Infrastructural Power: The Elusive Materiality of International Statebuilding

Bakonyi, Jutta (2022) 'Modular Sovereignty and Infrastructural Power: The Elusive Materiality of International Statebuilding.', Security Dialogue, 53 (3). pp. 256-278.


This article uses the example of the Mogadishu International Airport zone and takes a spatio-temporal lens to explore how (sovereign) power unfolds in international interventions that aim at building a sovereign state. I show that the Mogadishu International Airport zone emerges as an elastic frontier zone that contradicts the sovereign imaginary intervenors aim to project and undermines many of the taken-for-granted boundaries that states tend to produce. The Mogadishu International Airport and similar zones emphasize the centrality of logistics and circulation in interventions, but also point towards their temporal and liminal character. Modularity became the material answer to the demand to secure circulation while adapting to the rapid rhythm and short timeframes of statebuilding. Modular designs enable the constant adaptation of the intervention terrain, allow intervenors to deny their power and imprint and facilitate the commercialization of supply chains and intervention materials. Sovereign power that operates through such zones becomes modular itself. It is exercised as an adaptable, in parts exchangeable, and highly mobile form of power that operates through crises and emergencies. The spaces and materials created by modular forms of sovereign power remain elusive, but nonetheless stratify experiences of power and security.

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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Date accepted:05 August 2021
Date deposited:22 November 2021
Date of first online publication:19 November 2021
Date first made open access:22 November 2021

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