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Civilian resistance against the military in eastern DR Congo: a combined social navigation and structuration approach
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-09, 15:15 authored by Judith Verweijen
Although two decades of militarization have normalized the presence of armed forces in eastern DR Congo, civilians continue to resist their power and practices, engaging in heterogeneous repertoires of contentious action. Focusing on resistance against the national army, this article analyzes the forms and effects of these contentious repertoires as well as the factors that shape them. The latter include the intimate and multi-faceted entanglement of civilian and military lives and the high fluidity of dynamics of conflict, insecurity and protection. These factors foster an orientation towards both the socially immediate and the socially imagined. Accordingly, it is appropriate to analyze civilian resistance in eastern DR Congo through the lens of “social navigation,” a term used to conceptualize social practice in volatile settings. Yet, social navigation’s focus on fluidity and flexibility does not allow for fully comprehending civilians’ contentious practices vis-à-vis the military. Following the theory of structuration, these practices are also shaped by relatively durable social structures, such as economic scarcity and deeply rooted socio-political imaginaries and modes of action relating to “stateness,” patronage, and social belonging. The imprint of these structures on social practice renders civilian resistance fleeting, incoherent, and personalized, thereby reducing its potential to undermine the military’s dominance. These observations indicate that even in highly volatile settings, the analysis of durable social structures remains crucial to understanding social practice, including resistance, and its effects on the social order. The analytical approach of social navigation must therefore be complemented by the theory of structuration.
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