In This Review

The Value of Disorder: Autonomy, Prosperity, and Plunder in the Chadian Sahara
The Value of Disorder: Autonomy, Prosperity, and Plunder in the Chadian Sahara
By Julien Brachet and Judith Scheele
Cambridge University Press, 2019, 371 pp

Faya-Largeau is an oasis town in northern Chad of maybe 25,000 inhabitants, around 700 miles from the capital, N’Djamena. But it has played an outsize role in the country’s turbulent past. It was the site of repeated fighting between Chad and Libya from 1975 to 1987, and the last three presidents of the country have all had familial links to either the town or its dominant ethnic group, the Toubous. Brachet and Scheele spent a year in Faya-Largeau and have produced a careful ethnography of its people. Northern Chad is both desperately poor and an area of long-standing commerce, as well as banditry and violence. The authors argue that Toubou identity has been shaped by this context of transience and instability, although they also claim that that identity is performative, shaped by how the Toubous interpret and act on the reputation they think they have in the outside world. The authors additionally contend that the central state’s long-standing inability to exercise power and control over Toubou territory stems is in large part from the Toubous’ view that the government has no legitimacy.