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Department of
Geography & Environment


Houghton Street

London WC2A 2AE


Chris Suckling

PhD candidate in Human Geography & Urban Studies


Christopher holds a BA in Geography (First Class) and MSc in Human Geography Research (Distinction) from the London School of Economics.

Research Interests

  • Informal/illicit economic activity
  • Informal institutions
  • Social networks
  • Ethics of illegality
  • Urban ethnography

Thesis Title: Chain Work: Organisation and Regulation of the Illicit Drug Economy in Sierra Leone.

Summary: In recent years much has been made of West Africa becoming a nexus for organised crime and illicit drug trafficking. Current analyses rely on problematic statistical data confined to national and transnational law enforcement agencies. As such, the local organisational dynamics and political implications of these drug economies have tended to be poorly understood.

Taking the cultivation and distribution of cannabis sativa in Sierra Leone as an in-depth case, Christopher’s doctoral research asks two inter-linked questions:

  1. How is the illicit drug economy organised? 
  2. How is the illicit drug economy (self-)regulated?

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the project draws on one year of intensive fieldwork (Dec 2012-Dec 2013) using participant observation, interviews and network analysis. The research has two aims. First, to investigate the organisational basis of drug economies, against conventional models which privilege hierarchy and/or ‘ethnic-bonding’. Second, to understand the mechanisms (e.g. power, culture, agency) that are necessary for ensuring co-operation and co-ordination in drug economies operating ‘outside’ the regulatory framework of the state.

Regional Focus: West Africa

Academic Supervisors




Chris Suckling
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