Thomas Hinkel


The extensive human smuggling networks that have emerged around North Africa and the Sahel have inaugurated a significant shift in the economic landscape of a region that has traditionally been characterized by the gray economy and precarious political arrangements. Ample and detailed research has been produced that highlights how militia groups and non-state actors have been tapping into these flows (via taxation of routes and racketeering against non-armed smuggling enterprises) in order to fund their various projects. The way in which this new economic landscape is affecting local political arrangements is a heretofore little considered, yet highly consequential, development of the recent ‘migrant crisis’. This paper argues that emergence of migrant smuggling as a central economic pillar of Northern Mali has produced a more diversified and decentralized economic landscape, which in turn has led to a more diffused political environment that goes some way towards accounting for the protracted and fractionalized nature of the conflict. By exploring the effect of migration flows on conflict, as opposed to the other way around, this paper hopes provide an updated account of the political economic landscapes of conflict zones where migrant smuggling serves as a central pillar, as well as anticipate how the emerging 'age of migration' will impact some of the world's most vulnerable and unstable regions.


Political Science Department

Degree Name

MA in Political Science

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2018

First Advisor

Pinfari, Marco

Committee Member 1

Elnur, Ibrahim

Committee Member 2

Oberle, Holly


99 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item


This thesis research was greatly enhanced thanks to a research grant from the Mellon foundation, facilitated through HUSSLab, which allowed me to conduct field research in Mali in March of 2018. I am also enormously grateful to have been under the supervision of Dr. Marco Pinfari whose guidance not only greatly impacted this research, but also instilled in me a passion for the scholarly pursuit.