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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 7, 2013

Regional Dimensions of Somali Piracy and Militant Islamism: Anthropological and Econometric Evidence

  • Currun Singh EMAIL logo and Arjun Singh Bedi


This paper argues for a sub-regional approach to Somali piracy and militant Islamism, departing from prevailing state-centric mindsets and practices. The first section presents an anthropology that explains why piracy and Islamism emerged where they did when they did. It elaborates the geographically distinct cultures of law and livelihood that enabled each phenomenon to emerge only in particular sub-regions. Drawing on diverse factors including xeer (clan-based law), sharia (Islamic law), and practices of nomadic pastoralism (e.g., livestock raiding), the paper proposes a regional lens for the analysis of Somali crime and governance. The next section takes up this regional lens and specifies a statistical model for the incidence of piracy by sub-state region from 1993 to 2011, identifying the effect of Islamist rule on piracy. In all, the paper contends (a) that Somali political and criminal phenomena be disaggregated by region; and (b) that pirates and Islamists, contrary to mainstream discourse, are antagonists.

Corresponding author: Currun Singh, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands, E-mail:

  1. 1

    We thank Bridget Coggins for providing an updated version of the Maritime Piracy Database.

  2. 2

    Since the dependent variable is count data with a large proportion of time periods with zero incidents (67%) we estimate a zero-inflated negative binomial regression. This approach allows for over dispersion emanating from the large proportion of zero incidents. Statistical tests favor this model over a standard negative binomial regression and a Poisson model.

We thank two anonymous referees and the editor for comments.


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Published Online: 2013-11-07
Published in Print: 2013-12-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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