Working Paper
Frontier governmentality

We examine whether frontier rule, which disallows frontier residents from recourse to formal institutions of conflict management and disproportionately empowers tribal elites, provides a more fragile basis for maintaining social order in the face of shocks.

Combining a historical border that separates frontier from non-frontier regions in north-western Pakistan with 10km-by-10km grid cell-level data on conflict in a spatial regression discontinuity design framework, we show that areas under frontier rule experienced significantly higher violence against the state after 9/11.

We argue that the 9/11 tragedy represented a universal shock to grievances against the state which, in the absence of formal avenues of conflict management, led to a sharp surge in attacks against state targets in the frontier regions.

We show that the surge in ‘sovereignty-contesting’ forms of violence in these regions was partly carried out through the systematic assassination of tribal elites upon whom the whole edifice of social order was built.

Revised version available here