East Congo: Power to the Margins

9781107082076I am somewhat proud to announce the publication of my first single authored book with Cambridge University Press: Violent Capitalism and Hybrid Identity in the Eastern Congo: Power to the Margins.
The book discusses the radical transformation of eastern Congo’s political order in the context of apparent armed destruction and state weakness. Throughout the seven chapters, I trace back today’s violent rule patterns to a tumultuous history of extra-economic accumulation, armed rebellion and de facto public authority in the margins of regional power plays.
The book’s originality lies in its critically assessment of East Congo’s presumed collapse into “chaos”. Looking beyond the dominant paradigms, my main focus lies on cultural and economic uncertainty. Rather than curing the world’s ills – which, unfortunately, remains the dominant tendency in contemporary conflict analysis – I try to answer the difficult but important question what institutional changes result from strategies of daily risk management in an environment characterised by violent competition over the right to govern.
Pre-order forms can be found here

What is a border?

What is a border? This question formed the backbone of a talk I was invited to give on ‘Borders & Conflicts in an Age of Globalisation’ – co-organized by CICAM and the Border Research Unit at the University of Nijmegen late 2013. The talk involved references to all kinds of border places, which were, in some ways or another, tangled up in border wars. Using case studies from an edited volume I just published with my colleague Benedikt Korf on the topic, I tried to explain what I mean with that notion – of border conflict – and how one could start distinguishing between different scales of engagement – of state and border, international and local agencies and institutions.

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Barbed Wire

UnknownI’ve just finished reading Reviel Netz’s, Barbed wire: an ecology of modernity (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2004). The book offers a detailed genealogy of this pain-inducing technology, from its initial use in the control of cattle in the American Midwest, to the control over people’s mobility in the South African Boer war, the Nazi concentration camps and the Russian Gulag. The book has strong credentials (endorsements by amongst others Bruno Latour) and has been widely discussed on the web: see here for an interview with the author in Cabinet Magazine, for example, and here for a review by Ian Hacking.

I decided to share my own thoughts on the book with you here.

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No Man’s Land








It is worth mentioning a fascinating new project by Noam Leshem (Durham University) and Alasdair Pinkerton (Royal Holloway University of London), called Re-inhabiting No Man’s Land: from dead zones to living spaces.

The concept of the No Man’s Land is frequently related to the trenches of the First World War, which somehow dissolved the boundary between body and space – transforming the soldier into an integral part of a frontline ecology. In their concept paper the authors trace back the rich history of this spatial category, which typically indicates spaces that are anything but terra nullius. Instead they identify two constitutive forces that together produce the unique dynamics of no-man’s land: abandonment and enclosure.

Click here for a project overview and here for their concept paper (pdf).

Why Herbst And Mills Are Wrong About Congo’s “Invisible State” – by Christoph Vogel

IMG_0357Four years ago Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills made a case for the abolishment of the Democratic Republic of Congo as a unitary state in favour of dealing with those agents and institutions that are “actually running” the country – a position against which I strongly reacted. Now they are back with a similar argument, which requires an equally strong reaction. A guest post by Christoph Vogel (cover picture courtesy of Justine Brabant)

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Fair Phone = Fair Trade? Mineral Governance and Armed Violence in DR Congo

Congo 211The relationship between armed conflict and mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo is undergoing rapid and radical changes. This autumn, the new Fairphone has reached the production phase, based on certificates provided by the conflict-free tine initiative and Solutions for Hope projects in the Central African country. In the meantime, initiatives are competing for the public’s and market attention. Time for a critical update.

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Why “History Repeats Itself” in Eastern Congo

UnknownObservers often agree that ‘history repeats itself’ in Eastern Congo – from the slavery conditions imposed by Belgian King Leopold over Mobutu’s predatory state, to today’s armed militias. The reason why these ghosts come haunting Congo’s present is primarily related to unending competition over the ‘right to protect’ unfree populations.

The existence of such regionalized markets for protection in Congo’s eastern borderlands results in a situation whereby violent accumulation often outlives ideal statehood: soldiers, armed rebels, police and ‘non-state’ authorities fight for the right to exploit local communities and accumulate capital through extra-economic means. One the one hand, this pushes people further into poverty and undermines their efforts to earn a living; on the other, it leads to more stationary forms of predation as a result of post-war integration of such protection rackets into national state government. (cover picture courtesy Justine Brabant)

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