Peter Chilson shared with Concordia his latest book on how Mali’s unstable borderlands became a haven for al-Qaida.
An interest in the legacy of colonial borderlands first drew author Peter Chilson to Mali.
How the borderlands of the West African country became the largest al-Qaida-controlled land space in the world keeps his attention there.
The author spoke at Concordia Oct. 1 and read from his latest e-book, “We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches From the Lost Country of Mali.” The Frida Nilsen Lounge was packed with students and faculty listening to his experiences.
Chilson spoke to an Inquiry Seminar, classes on political science and global studies, as well as a French class . He also met informally with a host of faculty and students to talk about the issues in his work.
Chilson, who now teaches writing and literature at Washington State University, first traveled to West Africa in 1985 as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. He became a frequent visitor to Mali, researching French West Africa and the history of its borders.
There was also the mystique that surrounded the country, home to the city of Timbuktu.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been obsessed with lost civilization and cities,” he says.
In spring 2012, Chilson traveled to the country on assignment for Foreign Policy magazine to report on Mali’s civil war. He was one of the few Western journalists to see firsthand how the country’s unstable northern borderlands quickly became a haven for al-Qaida.
The e-book is part of an ongoing international borderlands series published by Foreign Policy and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Chilson has been writing about West Africa for 25 years. His e-book was a finalist for the Kurt Schork Memorial Prize in International Reporting.