“Terror, Territory, and Deterritorialization: Landscapes of Terror and the Unmaking of State Power in the Mozambican ‘Civil’ War”
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During the Mozambican "civil" war, residents across large areas of the countryside were terrorized out of their villages by the South African-backed Mozambican rebel organization Renamo. Drawing on the deterritorialization debates and investigations into the relation between territory and terror -- literatures that have rarely engaged with one another -- and bringing them together with interviews with survivors of the conflict, I show how Renamo unmade state power through a terror-induced deterritorialization. As the newly independent Mozambican state had attempted to build a new nation-state through communal villages as a particular ordering of space, Renamo used tactics of profound terror to destroy the lived spaces of these villages to empty them of residents but also of citizen and state. Speaking to a gap in the deterritorialization debates, this case illustrates that terror is a powerful force in realizing deterritorialization. Yet these debates, in particular their insights concerning the necessary relation between de- and reterritorialization, help clarify that terror is more accurately linked to territorialization processes rather than territory simply as space. This is a valuable addition to the literature on territory and terror and key to understanding Renamo's achievements. The de/reterritorialization coupling furthermore sheds light on the equally spatial and temporal aspects of terror and, more concretely, helps clarify why Renamo's terror stands out as particularly disturbing. Namely, Renamo effected a suspended state of deterritorialization; although it did rebuild spaces and spatial relations, this reterritorialization was ultimately aimed at social, political, and spatial annihilation and hence at ensuring the villages remain indefinitely empty.