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Conference Proceeding

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Illegal arms transfers -- Africa, Social networks -- Mathematical models


In recent years, researchers have increasingly turned their attention to the proliferation of small arms, a transnational trade amounting to over $7 billion in value during 2002. Small arms are difficult to track and are not the stuff of military parades, but they are immensely destructive. As much as $1 billion worth enters the black market annually. I argue that the illicit trade in small arms should be understood not as a market but as a network, one that shares some important properties with networked forms of organization studied by sociologists. I then employ quantitative methods developed for the study of social networks in an effort to show the basic structure of illegal small arms transfers to Africa. The analysis draws from my Illicit Arms Transfers (IAT) dataset still in its early stages of development, so the results are preliminary. They are suggestive, however, and the analytical approach promises to shed considerable light on a corner of the global arms trade that is of great interest to the research and activist communities, and of great consequence to those in war-torn regions of the world.


Paper prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, March 2005, Honolulu.



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