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Everyday Resistance, Peacebuilding and State-MakingInsights from 'Africa's World War'$

Marta Iñiguez de Heredia

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781526108760

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526108760.001.0001

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Introduction Resistance and the liberal peace: a missing link

Introduction Resistance and the liberal peace: a missing link

(p.1) Introduction Resistance and the liberal peace: a missing link
Everyday Resistance, Peacebuilding and State-Making

Marta Iñiguez de Heredia

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explains the three main purposes of the book and introduces its approach to resistance, peacebuilding and ‘Africa’s World War’. It focuses on analysing the accounts of resistance in peace and conflict studies, showing that they have ultimately focused on hybridity, missing an important opportunity to theorise resistance. The chapter also identifies important limitations in existing accounts, suggesting a closer use of the everyday framework as an alternative.

Keywords:   Everyday resistance, liberal peace, hybridity, ‘Africa’s World War’, Sociology of peacebuilding

There is no conflict between communities here.

(Administrative Local Authority 2014; Association Paix et Concorde (APC) Representative (no. 180) 2014; DDRRR Officer 2014)

The demobilisation programmes cannot achieve success because they are not tackling the real causes of conflict. The armed groups have the government as their main target and they are largely supported by the civilian population.

(DDRRR Officer 2014)

The problems we face now sparked with the Rwandan genocide, although some come from before; but they continue because we need a political negotiation, a land reform, jobs and a real democracy where people can participate and not just be put in jail.

(Union Paysanne pour le Développement Intégral Representative 2014)

These statements reflect some important sentiments of those who have experienced war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes since the 1990s.1 They imply an interpretation of the conflict as stemming from several overlapping economic and political issues that cannot be reduced to a military issue, a problem of state failure or a problem of identity among the different ethnic groups in the country. Embedded in them is a criticism both of the actors of the conflict and of those who are involved in the peacebuilding process. They therefore evoke the different forms of resistance against lack of progress to solve the political and economic issues that underpin the conflict. An analysis of these forms of resistance allows understanding of that experience, the conflict and the process of peacebuilding.

Building peace is a political process where the distribution of political and economic goods, including decision-making power, privileges, rights and access to material resources, is established. This process both continues and changes the distributing mechanisms that were in place before the conflict started. Peacebuilding is therefore a process that is constituted and resisted by the multiple actors involved. However, it has been studied much more as an instrument of power and order than as a process that is resisted.

(p.2) The liberal peace debates have produced a body of critical research that has analysed the theory and practice of contemporary peace interventions from different positions. These debates have questioned the paradigm of the liberal peace, inquiring about how liberal and how successful these interventions are. The paradigm of the liberal peace has served to identify the consensus on the rationale and goals of these interventions since the 1990s. This consensus revolves around the idea that ‘democracy, the rule of law and market economics would create sustainable peace in post-conflict and transitional states and societies, and in the larger international order that they were a part of’ (Campbell, Chandler, and Sabaratnam 2011: 1). From different critical perspectives, peacebuilding has been seen as a Western-driven strategy that fundamentally serves Western interests, whether as a form of control, discipline, extraction, or even as a new form of imperialism (Chandler 2006; Duffield 2007, esp. Ch. 7 and 8; Richmond 2010, 2011a). For Vivienne Jabri (2007), peacebuilding signals a much deeper transformation of the nature of war and the maintenance of international order where war and peace have an intimate and co-constitutive relationship.

Yet, without an account of resistance, the critique of peacebuilding risks distorting the power and commitment these interventions have to achieve such aims. Resistance has been present all along in peace and conflict studies but it has not been until recently, in the context of the liberal peace debates, that resistance has been developed more systematically (Falk 1995; Manning 2003; Newman and Richmond 2006; Stedman 1997). In fact, the liberal peace debates have experienced what could be termed as a turn to resistance. In the attempt to offer a more nuanced account of peacebuilding, resistance has been made central to the critique of the liberal peace. Over the decade since 2006, different works have offered a more sustained theorisation of resistance in this context (Keranen 2013; Mac Ginty 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012; Mitchell 2011a; Newman and Richmond 2006; Richmond 2009a, 2011a, 2011b, 2012; Richmond and Mitchell 2012a; Zanotti 2006). They have argued that international peacebuilding is a complex process that local societies shape and oppose with multiple strategies. They have questioned the categories of the international and local created in policy and scholarly research. What has changed is, firstly, that studying resistance has come to serve a critical normative agenda about what peacebuilding is and/or should be; secondly, it has opened the scope to study a vast array of forms of resistance, including unorganised and even individual forms of non-compliance; thirdly, it has challenged an early view of peacebuilders as overpowering actors and societies undergoing peacebuilding as powerless or passive recipients; finally, it has contributed to the politicisation of the interventions. As a result, not only has the power exercised by these interventions been contextualised and examined more thoroughly, exploring the political nature of the aims of these interventions; they have also contributed to exploring the political aims and alternatives of intervened societies.

(p.3) However, most problematically, this turn has generated a vague account of resistance and has ended up missing it by focusing on hybridity instead. Several other problems are connected to this. The locus of resistance has been placed on an international–local contention, and not only has this reified the binaries that were meant to be surpassed, but the ‘locals’ have been depoliticised by locating their agency of resistance in a vague account of local culture, rather than in power relations along class, gender and race lines. Culture is a source of resistance, but it has to be explained and linked to the material and symbolic underpinnings of power relations. Additionally, despite this turn being underpinned by everyday theorists such as Michel de Certeau and James Scott, much of this framework remains under-theorised.

This book takes these issues as its starting point. It locates resistance in the experiences of war, peacebuilding and state-making and critically applies the work of James Scott and Michel de Certeau. It defines resistance as the pattern of acts by individuals and collectives in a position of subordination against the everyday experience of domination. What is resisted is not the fact that interventions are liberal or externally driven but the reproduction of a coercive and extractive order through war and through the process of reconstituting state authority. The aim of this book is not only to highlight how contested peacebuilding processes are, but also to examine the practices that constitute, challenge and subvert them. This approach to resistance implies a sociological approach to peacebuilding and entails focusing on the practices of coercion and extraction that are embedded in the practices of state-making. With this, the book highlights the myriad of contradictory projects and actors that are involved in such a task. It also theorises peacebuilding within the continuum of practices of assertion of state authority that constitute the backbone of peacebuilding.

The book explores these dynamics through the case of ‘Africa’s World War’. The concept of ‘Africa’s World War’ or, more specifically, ‘Africa’s first World War’2 has been applied to the conflict that took place between 1998 and 2003 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although the book retains a focus on the DRC, following Gerard Prunier (2009) it uses the concept of ‘Africa’s World War’ to emphasise the transformative nature of a series of conflicts that took place in the mid-1990s in the central and Great Lakes regions, and that have to do with historical, global, regional and local factors. The examination of resistance in this case allows for the politicisation of the conflict and the players involved, looking at the role that popular classes’ rejection of historical conditions of domination has played in the outbreak and continuation of the conflicts until today. This is also a case whose complexity allows for a deep insight into one of the longest and largest peacebuilding interventions in the post-Cold War period, with the participation of multiple international and regional organisations, sometimes, as in the case of the European Union (EU), for the first time in their history. The focus on resistance, as previously suggested, (p.4) also aims to offer a deeper examination of the conflict itself. This deeper analysis entails moving away from simple explanations of the conflict as stemming from state failure, greed or identity. Its goal is to grasp the overlapping issues in historical perspective, to connect transversal issues at the global, regional and national/local levels. This chapter offers an overview of the main arguments of the book and of the chapters that follow.

Hybridity and the functional focus on resistance

As previously mentioned, the attention to resistance has ultimately served to account for how hybridity comes about. Resistance produces hybridity, although hybridity is also an outcome of the practical challenges and innumerable clashes that are present in any war and post-war context. Hybridity refers to the complex interactions and mutual transformations between interveners and local societies, identifying how the liberal peace is not entirely successful in imposing its agenda (Belloni 2012; Mac Ginty 2010, 2011; Richmond 2009b). The conclusions from Anna Jarstad and Roberto Belloni’s edited volume on hybrid governance summarise the main contentions of the hybridity debates: hybridity already exists from previous international–local interactions; there are a mixture of informal and formal mechanisms; and a hybrid peace may well reinforce violence and oppression, but has the potential to offer peace processes stability and legitimacy (Jarstad and Belloni 2012: 4).

For Belloni (2012), hybrid peace governance grasps the fact that peace processes feature a series of liberal, illiberal, international, local, formal, informal, war and peace elements. Hybridity is therefore an analytical alternative to the liberal peace. But beyond its analytical purchase, hybrid peace governance also implies for Belloni a rejection of the universal value and applicability of the liberal peace, a rejection of the ‘patronizing top-down approach’ and an alternative to ‘Western social engineering and paternalism’ (Belloni 2012: 34). Hybridity is therefore not just an outcome but also a means to make the international agenda work and actually constitutive of peacebuilding (Belloni 2012; Martin-Ortega and Herman 2012; Richmond and Mitchell 2012b; Sriram 2012). Subsequent developments of hybridity have increasingly theorised such dynamics, though under other terms, for instance ‘friction’ or ‘heterotopias’ (Björkdahl and Höglund 2013; van Leeuwen, Verkoren, and Boedeltje 2012).

Not only has resistance played a secondary and subservient role to hybridity, but the hybridity framework also has several shortcomings. Chandler and Nadarajah and Rampton identify that one of the pivotal claims of the turn to hybridity is that peacebuilding could be legitimate if it operated from the bottom up, considering local customs and culture (Chandler 2010b; Nadarajah and Rampton 2015). With this, hybridity offers a way into the liberal peace and not away from it. The hybridity framework also suffers from a certain presentism (p.5) that disregards the historical constitution of subjects and power relations. When studying resistance in processes linked to the constitution and transformation of political, economic and social institutions, it has to be understood and studied as a political category forged historically. Even if the targets of resistance are ‘international’ actors or international institutions, resistance cannot be delinked from the historicity of class and patterns in relations of domination. As Nadarajah and Rampton put it:

Through a selective engagement with hybridity that neglects the multilectical character of hybridisation and the longue dureé timeframe through which hybridity manifests, and instead concentrating on the contemporary dynamics in a presentist fashion, the hybrid peace approach fails to take seriously the historical co-constitution of the international, national, and local and the relations of power that connect these in both peace and conflict. (2015: 50–1)

Examining resistance from the perspective of Michel de Certeau and James Scott entails looking at the patterns in power relations. Contrary to what the hybridity debates suggest, where there could be an end point where legitimacy is achieved, for Certeau and Scott, relations of domination can never be legitimate as such. Power relations are a constant struggle where legitimacy and obedience are always limited and government requires repression. This approach has the capacity to achieve the aims of politicising, disaggregating, historicising and problematising peacebuilding beyond hybridity.

Resistance in the hybridity literature

The works that have more consistently looked at resistance are evidence that the theorisation of resistance has played a secondary role to that of hybridity. For Oliver Richmond, ‘[r]esistance to the liberal peace in post-colonial terms implies a hybrid form of peace with its own transformative qualities, which are resistant to exclusion’ (2012a: 197). Resistance is a form of local everyday agency that hybridises the liberal peace. Thus portrayed, this agency is vague in terms of identifying the subjects that carry it out and limited in its critique of the liberal peace, since this agency has the ability to tame the oppressive elements of the liberal peace and realise its emancipatory potential (Richmond 2011a: 241–2). Roger Mac Ginty’s International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance does not offer a framework of resistance because resistance is part of the four-tiered framework of hybridity which includes ‘the coercive power of the liberal peace, the incentivising power of the liberal peace, the ability of local actors to resist the liberal peace, and the ability of local actors to provide alternatives to the liberal peace’ (2011: 92). Resistance is broadly defined as ‘the ability of local actors, networks, and structures to resist, ignore, subvert, and adapt liberal peace interventions’ (Mac Ginty 2011: 78). Yet too many questions remain open. For Mac (p.6) Ginty, resistance can be elite or non-elite driven, conscious or unconscious, and it can be both an engagement against and a disengagement from peacebuilding (2011: 6, 10–11, 72–3, 84–5). Audra Mitchell (2011a) has offered one of the most sophisticated applications of Michel de Certeau in peacebuilding contexts, and although resistance is not the main focus, she offers some clues about it. For her, ‘both the “powerful” and the “weak” are the subjects and objects of resistance’ and, as such, resistance ‘is a mutual dynamic in which all parties feel capable of (at least to some degree) controlling, shaping or intervening in the acts, powers or logics that shape their lives’ (Mitchell 2011a: 31). What Mitchell wants to capture is that peacebuilding is a process defined by conflict and transformation. Yet, from her account, what, if anything, distinguishes resistance from agency and power politics, and resistance of the ‘powerful’ from resistance of the ‘weak’ is left unexplained.

In an edited volume by Richmond and Mitchell (2012a), resistance is the driving force to again focus on hybridity. According to the editors, everyday agency is the site of hybridisation of liberal peace. It is the site of the encounter of international and local agencies which accept, co-opt and resist each other, giving way to mutual transformations of both the liberal agenda and local environments (Richmond and Mitchell 2012b). They outline their two approaches to the everyday: post-colonial (Richmond) and sociological (Mitchell) – the latter with a subdivision between post-Marxist and post-modern approaches. For Richmond and Mitchell locals are ‘indigenous actors’ and, although material inequalities need to be taken into account, resistance cannot be seen ‘as the agency of the powerless against the powerful, in which the latter are irresistible for the former’ (2012b: 26). Instead, echoing Mitchell’s previous works, ‘many ways of resisting should be viewed as a shared dynamic, or as a reflexive tension, in which all actors are simultaneously objects and subjects of change and must negotiate, shape or help to determine the nature of this change’ (Richmond and Mitchell 2012b: 26). Although they are right in pointing out that resistance is not an exclusive domain of the powerless, it seems that resistance may have different connotations and implications, when it is done in the realm of government against international donors, to the resistance peasants may offer against certain economic agreements affecting land distribution.

Even so, Richmond’s and Mitchell’s volume is one of the few that looks consistently at resistance. However, although the editors offer an overall theoretical framework that draws on Michel de Certeau, the chapters discuss too wide a range of ‘tactics’ to be able to systematically link them to Certeau, and in fact only few of them explicitly refer to him or offer a definition of what resistance is. One of the exceptions is that of Alison Watson for whom ‘the smallest act of everyday resistance may represent the challenge to what is perceived to be the accepted boundaries of political behaviour’ (2012: 42). Another is the chapter by Liam Kelly and Audra Mitchell, who, drawing on Michel de Certeau, (p.7) see peace building as ‘“strategies” – that is, comprehensive, rationalizing logics of power that control and shape their external environment’ (2012: 278). These strategies and the logics that constitute them are subverted and contested by ‘conflictual acts’ which include graffiti painting, rioting, the building of walls and flying of flags, the display of emblems or doing damage to security cameras. The chapters in Richmond and Mitchell’s volume thoroughly and with empirical data show actions that reject, refuse, transform, question, contest or ignore the actions of the liberal peace, but without explaining the difference and relationship between these actions, especially when they can be individual, collective, conscious, unconscious, ideologically or not ideologically driven, self-interested and selfless acts. Thus it is unclear how, for example, the act of mothering (Watson) relates to the armed Meekamui movement in Bougainville (Boege 2012). Beyond the identification of ‘local’ actors, it is also unclear who the subject of resistance is. Roland Bleiker’s point in the conclusion to the volume, that resistance is not about hostility but about how resistance shapes hybridity, demonstrates that resistance in this volume is a means to theorise hybridity, and many things remain to be known about resistance (2012: 296).

There have been other approaches which have not relied on the everyday framework to account for resistance but where hybridity gives the rationale for analysing resistance (Keranen 2013; Zanotti 2011). They have focused on examining actions that the political elite in societies have taken against international actors. Zanotti makes an important critique of the theorisation of resistance. From a Foucauldian perspective, Zanotti offers a critical exploration of the interconnections, struggles, mutual manipulations and accommodations of international power and local resistance in the context of United Nations (UN) peace interventions. With Foucault, power is observed in the practices of governmentality, biopolitics and carceralization that are deployed through the promotion of democracy, legal reforms, advice, methods of increasing legibility, disciplinarity and monitoring the application of political, economic and social reforms. This is complemented with a Marxist perspective regarding uneven distributions of power and the key role of material and economic conditions in political life. Resistance in this framework is defined as agonistic, that is, as inscribed within subjects’ power relations, as ‘a transformative action’ (Zanotti 2011: 10). Zanotti’s aim is to not totalise power or to romanticise resistance, and the conclusion is that peacebuilding interventions are not all successful in imposing their aims and resistance is not a full-on emancipatory enterprise. They are ‘hybrid’ and ‘ambiguous’ (2011: 134 and 136).

Yet, in carving her contribution, the argument is put against normative extremes. Zanotti’s conclusion that ‘[n]o overarching malignant trait is associated with international normalizing “power” or liberatory quality with local “resistance”’ does not seem to represent the reality of the literature or of the actors in the interventions (2011: 11). Duffield and Hardt and Negri, discussed (p.8) as representatives of the ‘demonization of interventions and the romantisation of the resistance’, raise many caveats that take Zanotti’s concerns into account (2011: 11). Duffield (2001, 2007) identifies sites of resistance with a wide range of confrontations, boycotts, sabotages and violence that go from the tacit refusal to apply World Bank policies to actions by the Taliban government. While Duffield is vague in his conceptualisation of resistance, he notes the ambiguities therein. Similarly, Hardt and Negri also discuss resistance strategies and struggles that have failed, ended in even more exploitative regimes or been narrowly conceived (2001, Ch. 1.3 and 3.3). Their point (made from a political theory approach) is the capacity of these struggles to reproduce in ways that can bring about change (Hardt and Negri 2001, Part 4). Whether that change looks emancipatory is another matter, for resistance cannot be studied as a struggle of the good against the bad or vice versa. Focusing on everyday acts of resistance facilitates distancing from an overarching tale of liberation while understanding the many quotidian ways in which domination is mitigated.

What hybridity has missed

The main problems with these accounts are that the three core elements of resistance regarding the subjects, object and means of resistance have remained ambiguous. ‘Who’ is the subject of resistance has been seen as an undefined ‘local’. ‘What’ is the object of resistance has been theorised as ‘the liberal peace’, whereas the extent to which these interventions follow liberal values or locals reject liberal values is questionable. ‘How’ resistance is undertaken has been seen as hidden and ungraspable without due explanation. This has resulted in a vague account of resistance, in a drift away from the original framework of everyday resistance and in a limited politicisation of peace operations.

As seen, the local seems to identify the bulk of the targeted ‘indigenous’ society undergoing peacebuilding. For Oliver Richmond, who has gone further in theorising the local, it has diverse meanings and grasps the different intersecting relations from within society, between the interveners and societies, and the processes of hybridisation amongst them (2011a: 13–14). The local can signify the space where interventions take place, an internationally defined subject, or a pre-existing subject. Yet none of these meanings offers the basis for an account of resistance as an act of subjects in a socioeconomic hierarchy. Rather, these agencies and subjects are representatives of a shared culture that is threatened by the illegitimate aspects of the liberal peace. Resistance in peace and conflict studies has not offered an analysis of the genesis of agency beyond the view that locals reject international agendas. Class, gender, race and other sources of domination are referred to but they are not treated as structures, relations or practices of domination before, during and after peacebuilding, impacting the object, subjects and means of resistance. They have been evacuated and replaced (p.9) by a notion of the local that seems to be simultaneously power and resistance, oppressor and oppressed. The idea of a hybrid alternative is seen as a mutually beneficial outcome where the critical aspects of the analysis of resistance are reduced to a question of legitimacy, whereas, as previously stated, resistance reveals that legitimacy is contingent and changing.

The object of resistance has been seen as the liberal peace, producing a false division between the international as liberal and the locals as illiberal. What exactly is being resisted beyond an artificial ideological divide needs to be established. The areas of resistance this book focuses on show that such an ideological divide does not exist. The UN missions in the DRC have presented elements of authoritarianism; for example, although the set-up of the mission was negotiated at the time of the first peace agreement in Lusaka in 1999, it will finish when the UN Security Council decides (MONUSCO-PNUD-OCHA 2015). Corruption and rape have not been absent from the mission (UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon 2015; Escobales 2008; Zeid Al-Hussein 2005: para. 6–13). Additionally, the modus operandi of ‘adapting the working mechanisms to the context of the country’ seems to imply that illiberal elements are part of the approach, regardless of where they come from (MONUC Political Affairs Officer (no. 7) 2009). Similarly, democracy, representativeness and participation are demands that are part of the agenda of many peasants, armed groups and civil society members in the DRC. This does not show that locals are also liberal or that peace-building processes are not liberal enough, but that presenting a conflict along lines clear cut like this is not a productive way to understand the politics of any given war and peacebuilding context.

Liberal-ness does not define interveners or interventions at large, nor does illiberal-ness define intervened societies. Conceiving of the target of resistance in this way does not fully reflect the issues that are still present from war or, in fact, from the historical configuration of a particular polity. Rooting resistance in the practices of state-making allows us to explore relations of domination in a disaggregated historical manner, taking into account the ambiguities that exist in these contexts. It does not mean seeing resistance as an anti-state crusade; it means highlighting processes of authority assertion, violence and extraction linked to the practices of state-making that can be exercised by a variety of actors, ranging from state agents, the military and corporations to international interveners.

The problems of who resists and what is resisted are echoed in ‘the how’. Resistance has been conceived in the liberal peace debates as an ad hoc response to the actions of the internationals rather than as part of continuous relations of oppression, of conflicts that emerged before, during and after the war and as an opportunity to stage long-time aspirations in a context of political change. Additionally, from the overview of the approaches to resistance observed above, a dichotomy can be distinguished between the visible public and largely (p.10) organised resistance of elites and the unorganised, invisible and disorganised resistance of non-elites. Elaboration on what the relationship between these forms of resistance and violence is or what it means for resistance to be ‘hidden’ and ‘ungraspable’ is lacking. For example, Richmond refers to a wide range of practices, from non-compliance and subsistence strategies to Ghandian and Latin American pro-democracy-inspired civil movements (2011a: 119 – 22). He characterises the nature of this agency, and hence of resistance, as being ‘hidden, fragmented, often disguised and localised’ (2011a: 13).3 The explanation is insufficient to equate hiddenness and disguise with non-violent resistance, while simultaneously exemplifying it with more organised and public forms of mobilisation. Although this is done via the social movements literature and, in particular, the work of Alberto Melucci, how these different arguments and frameworks relate to an account of resistance requires further explanation (Richmond 2011a: 130).

Not all authors have rejected the idea of including violence in their framework of everyday resistance. Violence in Mac Ginty is linked to the coercive and violent political context of post-conflict interventions in which violent resistance comes alongside other practices that range from ‘outright resistance’ to ‘forms of non-compliance’ (2011: 80). The relationship between them is the capacity they have of hybridising state-building, and not the link they have to an account of resistance. In exploring the transformative capacity that peace processes, conflict and violence have, Mitchell has examined that peacebuilding and resistance can take a violent form too. Acts can take many forms and can actually be used to advance a position of power. What would make them acts of resistance in the everyday framework is their use to deny or mitigate subordination.

The dynamics of survival and armed resistance are illustrated in the tensions around the mine of Kamituga, a remote location of South Kivu. The mine has been closed since 1996.4 Even after Banro gained a new concession and began explorations in 2011, the mine has not re-opened. This has not stopped thousands of miners occupying the mine and extracting gold illegally, even at the risk of being jailed. It is a question of survival. Groups are formed to exploit a vein. Generally one is able to get a small amount of gold some days per week, but it can take several years to find a vein, let alone exploit the entire vein. The group is formed of diggers, porters, grinders and those who separate the gold from the rock. Sometimes the tasks are paid separately if the group is not big enough. About 0.15 g of gold (measured as one and a half toothpicks) is worth 5,000 Congolese francs (fc), to be shared between those who have worked in the process. Working in the mine is a survival mechanism, not a way to get rich. Most of Kamituga’s population has some form of relationship with the mine, but they resent their working conditions and the little profit that the mine brings to those who work directly and to the town as a whole. This resentment builds on years of neglect in a region that has experienced (p.11) large-scale conflict and continues to be threatened by the operations of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and armed groups such as Nyakiriba. In this context, people from around the area have established links with these and other armed groups such as Raïa Mutomboki. This is paid with all sorts of reciprocal agreements, such as security in return for information, food or refuge.

Self-reliance, critique, survival and violence are all mechanisms that resist the continuation of conflict, poverty and marginal decision-making power. The chapters that follow show that resistance discourses displayed by peasants, market sellers and civil society members are shared by members of armed groups. They also show that, although it is difficult to generalise, civil society members and the civilian population cannot be seen as separated from armed groups. The subsistence activities that pose a challenge to the channels of distribution that funnel resources upwards, marginalising the vast majority of the population, are a fundamental part of everyday forms of non-violent and violent resistance.

Without these elements an account of resistance continues to be vague. Currently it is used alongside a plethora of other concepts such as ‘critical agency’, ‘subversion’, ‘contestation’, ‘distortion’ and ‘hybridisation’ (Mac Ginty 2011; Richmond 2011a). Other scholars have also referred to ‘reactions, resistance, contestation and rejection’ (Autesserre 2014, esp. Ch. 3), ‘boycotts’, ‘transformation and subversion’ (Mitchell 2011a: 30–32), ‘social resistance and unruliness’ (Hume 2011; Pugh 2011) and ‘friction’ (Björkdahl and Höglund 2013). This signals a lack of conceptual precision and that the focus is not on resistance as such; the concepts have added to a critique of the liberal peace but have left the concept of resistance too open. The result is a limited account of resistance that has yet to fulfil the aims of repoliticisation, disaggregation and critical analysis of peace interventions. This book aims to work in that direction, although it is not the final word on the matter. Resistance needs to be contextualised, and there is much to be learned from the analysis of different cases.

A reworked account of resistance and peacebuilding applied to ‘Africa’s World War’

The main implication that the study of resistance has in a context of conflict and peacebuilding is therefore not that the kind of peace that comes out of those processes is hybrid. As many scholars of hybridity have pointed out, societies are all already hybrid. The main implication is that peacebuilding becomes part of the spectrum of authority, imposing claims on the population. It engages in the same practices of state-making. It is constitutive of the process of the assertion of state authority and therefore it is not external to the practices of coercion and extraction that come with it. A sociological reading of peacebuilding as (p.12) state-making shows the impossibility of disentangling the long patterns of coercion and extraction both in state–society relations and in domestic–international relations from how distribution of political and economic goods is done during conflict and peacebuilding processes. This is not dissimilar to Vivienne Jabri’s insights about the co-constitutive nature of war and peace, but it adds a historical perspective. This allows resistance to be grounded in authority claims, coercive and extractive practices, all of which have a long history, and exposes the long-term aspirations of popular classes.

The methodology of practice

This sociological view aims to take a historical and long-term approach and leads the book to analyse resistance and state-making as a set of practices. Practices are understood, following Certeau and Scott, as a representation of the practical ways of dealing with the experience of domination in everyday life, as well as a reflection of millenarian practices of subordinate classes. Practices are the mechanisms, informalities and improvisations that allow for certain schemes to be put ‘in practice’ (Scott 1998: 6). Adler and Pouliot identify five characteristics that clearly convey this meaning. Practices: (1) are a ‘performance’, which is the doing or making of something; (2) they are a ‘pattern’, constituting ‘regularity of behaviour’ and ‘the flow of history’; (3) they are ‘socially recognisable’; (4) they ‘represent a skill (more than knowledge)’; and (5) they ‘weave together discursive and material worlds’ (2011: 6–7). In this account, practices and actors do not represent just a hybrid outcome but are part of a process of continuity and change.

A focus on everyday resistance allows understanding ‘practical knowledge’ or ‘mētis’ (Scott 1998: 313). For resistance, this methodology implies a focus on individual, collective, ideological and material insubordination; for statebuilding, it focuses on the practices that facilitate and concretise the operationalisation of formal schemes. This connects with Africanist literature that has focused on actual practices to observe the practical ways in which states work, beyond and even in contradiction to formal regulations. These practical ways create their own routines that knit together how public administration, services and norms work (De Herdt and de Sardan 2015; Meagher 2012; Meagher, De Herdt, and Titeca 2014; Raeymaekers 2014). These approaches in the Africanist literature offer an analysis of hybrid institutions and routines that enable regulations and norms by state and non-state actors alike (Laudati 2013; Seay 2013; de Sardan 2012; Leinweber 2012; Titeca and De Herdt 2011). In a different way, this book concentrates on practices that define state-making more generally and where resistance is rooted.

‘Practices’ cannot be disentangled from the relationships, context and processes of which they are part. These ways of doing in everyday life have a history (p.13) and are representative of patterns. They are not random or one-time acts that can be taken purely on their own but, rather, the evidence of the contingent and historical nature of the present. A focus on everyday practices provides an opportunity ‘to reveal the present as a malleable construct which is embedded in a historical context, thereby serving to unearth the process of temporal continuity and discontinuity with previous social practices’ (Hobson 2002: 7). The continuities, and not just the transformations, need to be accounted for as part and parcel of the intentions, incoherence, purpose and mismanagement of statebuilding. Accounting for resistance thus requires historicising the everyday, even if focusing on present everyday activities.

A focus on practices does not automatically mean doing ethnography even if there has been a close relationship between the two in the liberal peace debates. Richmond openly calls his work ethnographic, further claiming that this approach is amenable to an active-research that has an emancipatory aim in mind (2011a: 129). This ethnography has to be used to study the ‘practices, discourses and rationalities [that] produce governmentality’ as well as the practices of subversion that, against each other, create hybridity (Richmond 2011a: 12). Wanda Vrasti (2008) has argued that the use of ethnography in international relations (IR) since the end of the 1980s has been selective and instrumental, mainly for data-collection purposes or as a way of critiquing the standard methodological foundations of the discipline while maintaining the credentials for remaining within the parameters of scientific research. According to Vrasti, this use has not taken account of the political implications of employing this method, its imperial legacy and the critical transformation that it has undergone within anthropology. Taking ‘the Comaroffs puzzle’, Vrasti wonders: ‘How do we explain that, just when ethnography was being challenged within cultural Anthropology for its structuralist, Orientalist and masculinist foundations, other disciplines, IR included, turned to ethnography as a potential source of political emancipation?’ (Jean and John Comaroff cited in Vrasti 2008: 294). Vrasti’s article has opened a debate about the relationship between IR’s ontology and methodological avenues.5 This is not to deny the value of ethnography for IR – in fact, Vrasti calls upon international scholars to engage critically with ethnography, and not to disregard it. What Vrasti’s critique illustrates is the need to engage with the intellectual baggage of theoretical and methodological approaches used and incorporated into research.

This book takes this critique seriously and, although it follows Scott and some of his methodological approach with a focus on practices, it is not ethnography (1998: 312). This is because the time spent in the field is considered to have been insufficient, and because a full and critical engagement with the legacy of ethnography from anthropology falls outside the book’s scope. Despite this, there is still an acknowledgement of what Ruth Behar calls the ‘epiphany’ that material, research and analysis have undergone between the observation, (p.14) the field and the final text (cited in Vrasti 2010: 84).6 There is also an exercise of ‘zooming in’ to observe a person criticising the government, or another entering into a negotiation to tame the authoritarian nature of military rule, followed by a ‘zooming out’ to extrapolate these to patterns of actions whereby domination is resisted.7

Peacebuilding as state-making

As Chapter 1 will argue, peacebuilding has a state-making ethos. This means that the reconstruction of the state, statebuilding, has become the preferred formula for peacebuilding. This understanding underpins the critical peacebuilding literature (Chandler 2009; Mac Ginty 2011: 12; Richmond 2011a: 14). In fact, as Hameiri (2014) points out, the decline of the liberal peace does not extend to statebuilding. The new explicit focus on security and stability in UN missions gives evidence to the fact that if they were ever separate, peacebuilding primarily entails building the state apparatus, reforming the security sector and monopolising the means of violence. Missions in the DRC, the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and Haiti focus on ‘stabilisation’, being renamed the Mission of Stabilisation in Congo (MONUSCO), Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the CAR, Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali and United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti. Scholars have seen in these changes a conservative status-quo turn from the liberal peace agenda (Natorski 2011). However, peace interventions have generally illustrated an understanding of the state as ‘[t]he foundation-stone of international peace and order’ (UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali 1992. para. 17). States that no longer fulfil that task need to be reconstructed.

As Navari argues, the conception of the state as the embodiment of peace is not extraneous for either IR or political theory, for which the state is ‘an arena of moral choice’ (1993: 44). It depends only on whether the state is seen as the ethical order (Hobbes/Hegel), in which case intervention might be ruled out; or whether the state is seen as the best order available (Locke), in which case intervention might be required to preserve or infer some changes within states (Navari 1993: 48). Interventions have adopted a Lockean approach. However, seeing the state as a peace-broker denotes what Navari also identifies as ‘a series of epistemological devices amalgamated with political theory’ (1978: 108). She refers to the theoretical practice of stripping the state of its historical and sociological elements as a historically contingent institution of domination and turning it into a necessary organising mechanism to maintain national and international order. Seeing peacebuilding as state-making attempts to break with these limitations.

The book sees peacebuilding as primarily concerned with the practice of asserting state authority. To do so it must build simultaneously on practices of (p.15) coercion and extraction with an overarching claim to legitimacy. Underpinning this understanding of state-making is Charles Tilly’s theory of state-formation whereby states have generally been formed by a process of accumulation of capital and coercion. This does not suggest that war has necessarily contributed to the centralising and organising of the coercive and extractive apparatus of the state in a Tillean sense. In fact it could be the opposite (Taylor and Botea 2008). Tilly offers an account of historical patterns in the practices of state-making, with a focus on coercion and extraction, and a reference point on which to articulate relations of domination and resistance. What this framework tries to do is to stay away from normative political questions about what a state should be and instead construct one to understand how states work.

However the book goes well beyond Tilly. Firstly, in seeing practices of assertion of state authority as coercion, extraction and claims to legitimacy, it is more broadly framed within a Weberian tradition. With this, the book illustrates that these practices are constitutive of state authority and not limited to a region or a historical context. In fact, what contemporary authors writing in this tradition have argued is that states are the result of competing, chaotic plural processes and transversal interests both from within and from without (e.g. Mann 1993; Skocpol 1979; Tilly 1990). These are not far from the dynamics and features identified by theorists of African states.

Secondly, despite the similarities, African states have been formed out of a different experience, including that of colonisation and slavery. Additionally, Weberian approaches are Eurocentric. Not only do they portray the European state as self-made, but they underpin the tendency to portray the European state as the model with which to compare all other states. These methodological and ethical concerns take the book to draw on Africanist literature, and in particular on Achille Mbembe’s theorisation of Africa’s political space (Mbembe 1991c, 2001, 2003). The work of Mbembe allows us to observe the particularities of state-making in Africa due to its historical configuration from pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial experiences. Observing these particularities also studies an African case from a more general state-making experience, avoiding pre-conceptions of Africa as an exceptional case. Understanding how the configurations of political authority have tended to produce forms of indirect authority, delegating in the military, commercial elites, corporations and more recently in armed groups and peacebuilders is important. Such is the understanding of the dynamics that maintain African states as producers of raw materials and debt repayments. Peacebuilding does not represent a new time that has broken with the past; it adds to the spectrum of practices of authority already in place, reflecting the patterns in relations of domination. It is this historisation that the book takes up as its foundation to explain the nature of resistance and its context. This historicity counters the main narratives of the DRC, which have seen the DRC’s conflict as a representation (p.16) of a transhistorical dynamic of plunder and violence, or as a transhistorical conflict over land and identity, and ultimately as a failure. The insight that the DRC provides is that peacebuilding is not so much a ‘hybrid’ of international and local agency as it is a process of state reconstruction that reflects the co-constituted nature of any given political institution and order in world politics. State-making per se, as Tilly and other Weberian authors show, is an internationalised process where, as Mbembe argues, domestic and international spheres are entangled.


In Chapter 2 the book offers an alternative account of resistance based on James Scott, with elements of Michel de Certeau. As observed above, the peace and conflict studies literature has primarily drawn on Certeau. His framework is appropriate to theorise hybridity, yet it leaves many aspects of resistance undefined. Certeau analyses two kinds of practices which he links to a Clausewitzean understanding of strategy and tactic in war. ‘Strategy’ is that of the general. It represents power (‘a business, an army, a city, a scientific institution’) and its practices relate to the delimitation of a place from which external threats and targets can be controlled and managed (Certeau 1984: 37). A ‘tactic’ is ‘the art of the weak’, of the soldier, the private; it operates within ‘the enemy’s field of vision’ but it does not have the vision of the enemy as a whole, rather, it plays with it, mostly in the form of ‘trickery’ (Certeau 1984: 18). In Certeau’s analysis, power and resistance, strategy and tactic respond to an ‘everyday war’ of targeting and trickery, of delimitation and avoidance, of control of autonomy and of reappropriating the everyday order of life according to one’s own logic.

Certeau’s notion of resistance comes from his discussion of ‘la perruque’ (the wig). Workers may sometimes play the role of the employee, as if wearing a wig, but may not be performing the work assigned. Certeau defines it as follows:

It differs from absenteeism in that the worker is officially on the job. La perruque may be as simple a matter as a secretary’s writing a love letter on ‘company time’ or as complex as a cabinetmaker’s ‘borrowing’ a lathe to make a piece of furniture for his living room. (1984: 25)

Here it is possible to see how, for Certeau, the doing – that is, the writing of the love letter, which responds to the logic of the secretary’s own life and interests – is a way of subverting the logic of work and the power relation between employer and worker. It is also clear that the figures of the ‘weak’ and the ‘soldier’ against the ‘strong’ and ‘the general’ point to a notion of subversion that is linked to their material relations and social hierarchy. Seeing ‘tactics’ as a form of resistance by elites does not follow straightforwardly from this (p.17) framework. Resistance for Certeau is not an oppositional organised collective act against capitalism. It is a quotidian strategy that subverts subordination.

However, this lays ambiguous ground due to the fact that these practices need to be comprehended by their outcomes. If can we assume resistance only when the logic of power has been subverted, a trap is created by the fact that power is generally successfully imposed. Conversely, there may not be any situation in which the logic of power is not subverted somehow. In the context of statebuilding, the logic of subversion and outcomes applies best when theorising hybridity (an outcome) but resistance remains elusive. This is not to disregard Certeau. Quite the contrary, the proposal here is to make a more specific use of his framework.

The book draws on critical analysis of the work of James Scott and Certeau (Certeau 1984; Scott 1985, 1990, 2009). Scott concretises the account by basing it on patterns and subordinate groups against claims from authority, however uncoordinated and limited their practices might be.8 Although this is a contentious aspect of the framework, the framework also provides an account of the intent and motivations resisters have. It encompasses both material and symbolic claims, individual and collective actions; and it finally examines a diverse range of acts, including how violent and non-violent practices relate to everyday resistance. However, Scott’s definition could be improved by referring directly to the patterned character of resistance rather than defining it mainly as an intentional act against domination. Additionally, intentions and motivations could be more directly linked, and, since Scott’s ideas are developed in a pacified context, more could be said about the relationship between everyday resistance and violence. Following Michel de Certeau, Scott’s approach could also include acts that do not oppose or address authority claims directly but are used to fulfil one’s own needs to the detriment of claims made by authority.

My definition of resistance that is used throughout this book will be as follows: ‘Resistance is the pattern of acts undertaken by individuals or collectives in a subordinated position to mitigate or deny the claims made by elites and the effects of domination, while advancing their own agenda’ (cf. Scott 1985: 290). The book identifies subordinate classes with what Nzongola-Ntalaja names as the working class (both skilled and unskilled) and the peasantry (1983: 58–9);9 and with what Barrington Moore calls ‘lower classes’, ‘those with little or no property, income, education, power, authority, or prestige’ (1978: 35 and xiii). The concept of subordinate/non-elite is complex and contingent. It is intersected by the different kinds of subordination that cut across economic, social and political relations including class, gender, ethnic group, race, age, sexuality and physical ability. In the context of African polities this has been problematised even more, pointing out the fluidity and muddled nature of social and political relations, especially as privileges, rights and material goods are delivered informally, hinging on personal relations (p.18) (Magubane and Nzongola-Ntalaja 1983; Schatzberg 1980). Yet, as Gerard Prunier argues, noting the fluidity of the social and political world in Africa and linking classes with their networks in the informal economy does not rule out the existence of classes, but only a recognition of their problematisation and nuances (1991: 4). The implication of Prunier’s argument is that in the exercise of accumulation and power, distribution may follow networks of kin and proximity (where ethnic groups and their own rankings add an extra layer of social stratification) and may also create fluid boundaries but maintain an unequal class system. This book notes how different kinds of subordinate experiences relate to different kinds of resistance, but its main focus is on linking these to broader dynamics of resistance in the exercise of building state authority.

Two different categories will be proposed. On the one hand, and closer to Scott’s account, there are acts that address authority’s claims more directly (claim-regarding acts) – for example, tax evasion and denigration of legitimacy. On the other hand, and closer to Michel de Certeau, there are acts that follow ‘self-logics’ and in doing so mitigate authority’s claims and the effects of domination (self-regarding acts). These acts are done in solidarity with one’s friends and family or prioritising one’s own needs (Certeau 1984: 25–6). Survival strategies in the DRC, which are generally adopted following relations of proximity and based on an ethic of reciprocity, not only provide ways to mitigate poverty and deteriorating living conditions in a militarised context, they also enact alternative forms of social organisation and political authority.

Resistance is explored through different discursive, violent and survival practices in Chapters 4, 5 and 6, respectively. These practices include denigration, slandering, mockery and reworking of mainstream statebuilding discourse; the activities of Mai Mai militias and their use by rural communities to provide security; and creative survival practices that range from tax evasion to land reappropriation and the provision of all sorts of social services. Scott has often been criticised on the grounds that intentions are ungraspable, that resistance acts are too ambiguous and ambivalent to serve as a category of analysis and that he excessively simplifies social reality (Hibou 2011a: Ch. 1; Mbembe 2001: 103–8; Ortner 1995; Weaver Shipley 2010: 666). In response to these critiques, which have also concluded that resistance does not exist or is incomprehensible, this book argues that resistance cannot be accounted for in all-or-nothing terms. It proposes a gradation of some elements depending on the visibility of the intentionality, the intensity and exposure of the acts used and how directly authority claims have been addressed.

In exploring these different elements, as mentioned earlier, this book argues that the practices of everyday resistance are determined by the political context. The context of the DRC, although defined as ‘post-conflict’, ‘peace consolidation’, ‘peace-building’ or ‘stabilisation’, is one of ongoing war, increasing militarisation and plural authority (Dolan 2010; ISSSS 2013; (p.19) UN Security Council 2010, 2013; UNSSSS/ISSSS 2009). The ways in which rural communities engage in multiple acts of resistance should be seen as an attempt to deny and mitigate domination provoked by that context. Ultimately there is no universal, all-encompassing framework of resistance. Any framework needs to connect its major defining elements of patterns, motivations, acts and actors, and be contextualised.

‘Africa’s World War’

As Zubairu Wai (2012a: 3) demonstrates, there is a certain epistemology of African conflicts that takes their most brutal aspects to be the overarching frame of analysis. The DRC conflict is a vivid example of that. The failure of state institutions and the race for resources, in addition to the barbarous aspects of war including rape and torture have been seen to be the underlying issues (Collier 2000; Collier and Hoeffler 2000; Kaplan 2000; Rotberg 2003). According to the state-failure and resource-wars theses, countries in the region, elites and politicians in the DRC as well as ruthless militias have entered into conflict to battle for the control of resources, making it impossible for the DRC to develop politically and economically. The logics of corruption, of profiting from conflict and the behaviour of some political elites in the distribution of privileges and power have been inscribed within the logics of neopatrimonialism and bad governance (Collier 2007; Reno 1998b). These explanations are premised on a normative rather than an analytical paradigm that compares a pathological image of the DRC to an idealised rational bureaucratic view of politics and the economy.

Since about 2010 there has been a shift in thinking about the roots of conflict in the DRC that has moved towards land and identity. Unresolved historical cleavages around land and power distribution, both of which are linked to identity and belonging, create the basis for political mobilisation through violence (Autesserre 2010, 2012a; Bøås 2012; Fahey 2010, 2011). The international peacebuilding response has prioritised international actors’ interests and agendas, compromising core peacebuilding and stabilisation goals, leaving the local sources of conflict unaddressed. It has also taken a complacent approach to Congolese and regional actors, who have ignored or even manipulated international participants to pursue their own interests while continuing to receive international funding (Autesserre 2012a; Trefon 2011; Vlassenroot and Raeymaekers 2009). Although these analyses have offered nuanced explanations of the micro-dynamics of conflict and point out important trends in security and peacebuilding policies in the DRC, the way that some of them have detached conflicts from their regional and international contexts risks reproducing a depoliticising and pathological account of the conflict. Not only does the localisation of conflicts portray the local as an autonomous ahistorical sphere, additionally (p.20) this approach does not emphasise enough the role that popular classes’ political aspirations have played in the start and continuation of conflict, and does not consider patterns of mediation and shared authority in world politics (MacMillan, Little, and Lawson 2014).

These aspects have been taken up by those who have focused on the political and regional roots of conflict from different perspectives (Marriage 2013; Ndaywel è Nziem 1998; Ngoie Tshibambe 2013; Nzongola-Ntalaja 2002; Prunier 2009; Raeymaekers 2014; Stearns 2011; Vlassenroot 2002; Vlassenroot and Raeymaekers 2004a). Most of this literature, however, is still based on the paradigm of the failed neopatrimonial state. This book contributes to these debates by analysing the political, economic, regional and historical roots of conflict, although it avoids normative conceptions of the state. This is done by focusing on resistance and looking at longer patterns in state–society relations and highlighting patterns of extraction and coercion that link the local conditions of the DRC with the global economy. Peasants have become involved in the war not only because they have been primary targets, but also because the war awoke amongst them a latent desire for revolt that continues to this day in different ways, including through violence. French anthropological and sociological literature has looked at these issues in some detail, but little has been done in the English IR literature (Acker and Vlassenroot 2001; ADEPAE et al. 2011; Amuri Misako 2007; Autesserre 2010; Vlassenroot 2002). The moral economy of survival also needs to be explored as a space for resistance, and not just as a space of oppression and suffering (Ela 1994, 1998). Resistance has a longue durée that is inseparable from how political authority has been configured historically.

The book draws on 48 weeks of fieldwork between 2009 and 2014, and a close follow-up of the case from the first democratic elections in the DRC in 2006. This includes 174 interviews with UN, government and army officers, as well as with Congolese NGOs, trade unionists, combatants and ex-combatants of armed groups (Yakutumba, Federal Republican Forces (FRF), Simba Mai Mai/MRS (Mouvement Revolutionaire Socialiste), Raïa Mutomboki, Mai Mai Nyakiriba, ex-Mai Mai Dunia and ex-Mai Mai Padiri), members of peasant cooperatives, street and market sellers and miners. The material used also comes from 17 formal participant observations, seven focus groups, one small survey and multiple informal conversations. Fieldwork took place in Kinshasa, in the province of North Kivu (in Beni, Butembo, Masisi, Nyiragongo and Goma) and in the province of South Kivu (in Bukavu, Bunyakiri, Fizi and Mwenga).

The purpose of the case study is not to make causal inferences or to test hypotheses. The question it addresses is not why but what everyday resistance is and how it happens. The book systematically examines different practices of resistance against practices of domination fostered by conflict and state-making. Thus, following Patrick T. Jackson, the book is more an inquiry than a test of (p.21) nullifiable hypothesis (2010, esp. Introduction). This does not mean that resistance does not exist beyond our thinking, but that researching and theorising resistance is not an exercise of objective measurement of independently existing facts. The evidence provided throughout the book is verifiable in so far as these are not hidden or invisible acts. It claims that ‘its validity is internal to its own methodology’, and while its interpretation is open to challenge, it is consistent (Jackson 2010: 191). This may not be ‘science’ but it is ‘something to use as guidance for systematic thorough inquiry that has the potential to produce a certain kind of knowledge’ (Jackson 2010: 191).

The conflict in the DRC and the way peacebuilding strategies have been designed and applied can serve to compare other case studies. Much of the fieldwork is focused on North and South Kivu because they are the provinces where conflict continues and where peacebuilding strategies have focused the most. The context of North and South Kivu is complex but cannot be separated from the politics of the DRC and the broader central and Great Lakes regions as a whole. The regions also reflect African politics more generally. The elements of how violence takes place, the importance of seeing the material and symbolic underpinnings of different forms of resistance, as well as how coercion, extraction and the claims to legitimacy play out, are all important to understanding relations of power and resistance in conflict and peace processes beyond this case and Africa.

There are limits to the generalisations that can be made. For Scott, ‘[w]hile something can indeed be said about forestry, urban planning, agriculture, and rural settlement in general, this will take us only so far in understanding this forest, this revolution, this urbanization, this farm’ (1998: 318). This means that although it is possible to argue that the nature of political authority enabled through peacebuilding processes is plural, what it really means in Eastern DRC (e.g. plural centres of power including state and non-state actors in parts of North Kivu, or statebuilding through the deployment of the military) may imply important shaded differences to what it means in Bosnia (e.g. the influence of the EU and the US amongst different Bosniak and Croat political projects). In other words, highlighting certain practices as resistance may provide a methodological container that will be meaningful only once they are contextualised.

What lies ahead

The chapters that follow pave the way for research focused on resistance in peace and conflict studies. They lay the path to continue a necessary journey that was started but that has taken a detour towards hybridity. As was already mentioned, the book starts with the three framing chapters, followed by three empirical chapters. It starts by rearticulating peacebuilding, focusing on its core element: (p.22) the reconstitution of state authority. It continues with the framework of resistance, followed by an overview of Africa’s World War. The three empirical chapters focus on the three arenas of resistance that the book proposes to explore: discourses, violence and survival. The Conclusion discusses the implications of this new understanding. One of these implications is to serve as a connection between peace and conflict studies, security studies, IR, sociology and anthropology in their study of resistance. The book adds to the growing number of resistance studies in IR, counterbalancing the focus the discipline has placed on the study of power. Ultimately, order needs an account of resistance to be fully explained. While this is becoming a common call among IR scholars, the study of resistance still plays a secondary role in the discipline (Armstrong, Farrell, and Maiguashca 2004; Eschle and Maiguashca 2007; Hirst 2015; Stern 2005).

Resistance is not different within international peacebuilding, since it is embedded more broadly in patterns of society relations, in the dynamics of international political economy and in state constitutive patterns of world order. Power–resistance relations are not an isolated relationship between authority and subject. In fact, one of the insights from looking at peacebuilding from a historical sociological perspective and from an African case study is that this relationship is a plural relationship of ‘multiple authorities and centres of political control’, not a binary (Raeymaekers 2007: 173). The particular context is marked by, on the one hand, increasing militarisation, authoritarianism and impoverishment of the civilian population and, on the other, by a political discourse of peace, democracy and development. Peacebuilding in the DRC is undertaken and mediated by a wide array of international, national, state and non-state actors. The process of reconstituting state authority leads these actors to engage in contradictory practices of militarisation, peacebuilding, shared sovereignty and proxy wars. Peacebuilding is in this sense the representation of the practices of state-making more generally. Resistance counters the different forms of extraction and violence that continue or worsen unwanted conditions of living, not the intervention of international actors.

The book proposes to embrace ambiguity and plurality to look at both resistance and state-making. Similar to Hollander and Einwohner it sees resistance as ‘socially constructed’ (2004: 548). In the process of identifying what is resistance and what is not, its recognition by those who resist, those who are targeted and those who observe creates a complex interconnection of subjective meaning. However, despite these complexities, the book sees resistance as a political category worth studying in its own right. Recent analyses of post-conflict state-building through the lens of state-making have afforded a better understanding of this process (Berger and Weber 2006; Bliesemann de Guevara 2010, 2012; Jung 2008; Migdal and Schlichte 2005; Schlichte 2009). What these analyses do not emphasise enough is that both statebuilding and state-formation (as (p.23) ideal-type processes) share patterns in governing and resistance practices. Resistance features intermittently in these analyses to argue that different actors mould the state, that there are hegemonic as well as subordinate agencies and that these may not necessarily follow a top-down approach. Similar to the hybridity debates, resistance in these studies is also mentioned to point out that statebuilding is contested and mediated, but not as a developed account of it. This book sees resistance as a prevalent historical practice in everyday life that needs to be studied and comprehended.

In the book, embracing these complexities entails seeing resistance not in normative terms but as Janus-faced, highlighting how there are multiple self-interested power-seeking agendas behind it (Lawson 2007; Selbin 2009). Yet the claim is that in order to attain a better understanding of how resistance operates, resisters and dominant actors must be analytically categorised by their symbolic and material privileges, their decision-making power and class. Its advantage is to formulate a way to observe patterns in social relations that simultaneously capture the complexity of an internationalised context of war and state-making. The ultimate aim is not to portray a romantic view of resistance but to open up paths to study forms of resistance and contribute to the project of a nuanced and critical analysis of peacebuilding operations.


(1) These quotes are representative of many experiences recorded throughout the period of field research between 2009 and 2014.

(2) The term ‘Africa’s First World War’ was apparently coined by Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice, although it has been legated by journalist Lynne Duke, who, in a biographical/journalistic account of Africa’s contemporary history, notes that ‘Susan Rice, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, would call this conflict the first “world war” of Africa because of its continental proportions, the array of regional powers involved, and the high stakes at play’ (Duke 2003: 237).

(3) These remain as a reference throughout Richmond’s book.

(5) See the discussion in Millennium Journal of International Studies (Vrasti 2008, 2010; Rancatore 2010; see also the engagement of Richmond with Vrasti, Richmond 2011a: 129).

(6) See also the transition from ‘history’ to ‘text’ in Certeau (1988: Ch. 1).

(7) For Certeau, using ‘zoom lenses’ provides the ‘sociological and anthropological perspective that privileges the anonymous and the everyday’ (Certeau 1984: v).

(8) This does not mean that loose social movements do not exist (Richmond 2011a). In the case of the DRC, a tapestry of civil and political organisations and ongoing social and political struggles take place in a more public sphere. This is seen through the struggle of collectives that have been particularly vocal and also particularly persecuted, like human rights organisations, journalists, feminists, women’s-rights organisations, students, peace activists, pygmies, etc. However, not only are the practices Scott focuses on more (p.24) prevalent, they also form the basis of these more public struggles. See for example De Villers and Tshonda (2004).

(9) Cf. Nzongola-Ntalaja adds a third category, the ‘lumpenproletariat’, not included here because this serves a Marxist category of a class not interested in revolutionary politics, and does not have analytical value in this book.