Chr. Michelsen Institute
Historically, maritime piracy was shaped by people engaged in different economic endeavors – like fishing, smuggling, and raiding – while sometimes acting at the service of kings and states. In present-day versions of piracy different occupational temporalities overlay each other, but modern piracy hardly ever holds a license from central state authorities. In their nuanced study, Ursula Daxecker & Brandon Prins skillfully steer us towards an understanding that modern maritime piracy overwhelmingly relies on liaisons between local governments and pirates in opposition to central states. Pirate Lands undertakes the mammoth task of explaining how local conditions determine the 'geography of pirate operations', and why piracy must be seen in relation to both local governance and national regimes. The main finding of Pirate Lands is that both access to infrastructure and collusion with local authorities enable the organization and sustenance of piracy, but that local conditions determine their scope and type across countries. Zooming in on piracy in Indonesia, Nigeria, and Somalia, Daxecker & Prins use new types of quantitative data, including nighttime light emissions and subnational tax extraction, as valid indicators to establish patterns between governance and piracy not only on a global level but also on national and subnational scales. Based on meticulous methodology and analysis, the book systematically shows that piracy thrives not in the areas of state absence or collapse, but in areas where the state is present but weak. By doing so, Pirate Lands challenges assumptions that attribute the emergence of private protection business and piracy to the absence of states as regulators and shows that efforts to eradicate conditions for modern piracy should focus on enhancing local authorities rather than central state capacity.