I don’t remember how many times I have rewritten this page. My wife calls me an eclectic, and means it as a compliment. My daughter has a list of forty things to ask to the Christmas Man. I asked her to erase all but one. In these folly times one ought to start to say no to certain things. Not long ago I threw away my IPhone, I stopped smoking years ago, I hate Facebook but I like good company in a physical sense. I am an activist in certain respects, particularly when it comes to the right to move freely. But I am a ‘passivist’ when it comes to formulating tailored policy advice for the sake of ‘development’.
Ever since I wrote “Conflict and Social Transformation” with my colleague Koen Vlassenroot in 2004, I have remained interested in the relationship between protracted crisis, violence and social change. What is the relationship between the various crises we are facing today – of war, economic hardship, of ‘modernity’ – and wider social transformations occurring in society in general? Is violence inherent to any form of government emerging from such situations? And how does our subjective uncertainty and the ways we manage risk relate to these wider and widening crises? These questions have brought me to do research in Africa, and increasingly also in Europe, on questions of protracted armed conflict, hybrid governance, post-war reconstruction, ‘informal’ economies and social innovation, but also on forced migration, asylum and the reproduction of sovereign rule in the margins of the state.
After an education in contemporary European History (University of Ghent) and International Relations (London School of Economics) I had a short career in journalism, at a defunct journal called MaoMagazine. I subsequently worked as an activist and analyst at the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), working on corporate crime, illegal arms sales and minerals trafficking, mainly in Central Africa. Particularly my work on the coltan trade attracted wide international attention, resulting in a parliamentary investigation in Belgium and Uganda (the so-called Porter report: pdf) and contributing to various international arrests.
After IPIS I moved to Ghent University to write a PhD thesis about the role of informal business in the transformation of political order during Africa’s Great Lakes war. In my ethnographic research I concentrated on the changing role of cross-border commerce in the reconfiguration of local government, focusing on biographical life histories and the political economy of informal war-time trade (see publications). A manuscript titled Violent Capitalism and Hybrid Identity in Eastern Congo has been published with Cambridge University Press in 2016.
Today, I work as a lecturer in Political Geography at the University of Zurich. I have widened my research scope to border studies (margins, frontiers), forced displacement and migration – always associating in-depth critical research with creative work and political activism.
contact me at email@example.com