Remoteness is as much about a position in topological as in topographical space. Remote areas might look inaccessible from the outside, but, for Ardener (Ardener, E. 1989. , M. Chapman (ed.). Oxford: Blackwell), feel open and vulnerable from the inside, as their connectivity with the outside world is never fully controlled by locals. Drawing on material gathered in northern Chad, we argue that this lack of conceptual reciprocity can also lead to the opposite: a trope of permanent aggression, based on the local endorsement of external negative stereotypes. From the outside, the ‘locals’ are seen to be archetypical raiders, thieves and uncouth. From the inside, people concur in these descriptions to a surprising degree, insisting on their disorder, unpredictability and violence. This endorsement of alterity grants northern Chad a particular place in Saharan history, geography and ethnography.