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In Harmony with the Population: Ethnomusicology as a Framework for Countering Violent Extremism in the Sahel

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Through continued efforts like the Pan-Sahel Initiative of 2002 and subsequent Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership initiated in 2005, the State Department and Department of Defense struggle to leverage interagency partnerships and multinational cooperation within the Sahel region to wage war on terrorism and enhance regional peace and security. While these programs have made modest progress through mil-to-mil engagements and U.S.-led military exercises in the region, they fail to understand and address the full scope of regional security issues in the Sahel to include transnational organized crime and centuries-old regional sovereignty disputes. If policy makers hope to achieve and maintain true situational awareness in such a dynamic environment, they must leverage all available tools. In a region like the Sahel, where music is a foundational component of the cultural heritage and modern communication channels, ethnomusicology becomes a valuable tool with which to build situational awareness and enhance engagement with the population.This thesis draws from ethnomusicology research theory, intergroup psychology principles, and network convergence and communications theory to create a framework for regional security studies in order to better understand intergroup dynamics in the Sahel, and works as a tool to map networks in the region. Using Mali as a case study, it recommends the application of ethnomusicological analysis to identify and address legitimate grievances within the population that provide exploitable leverage points for regional bad actors. Further, it suggests using the existing peer-to-peer cell phone music sharing network in the Sahel to identify convergence nodes to target illicit networks in the region.

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Technical Report



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