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Friday December 9 2011

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


Erasmushuis 08.16, Faculty of Arts, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, 3000 Leuven (Belgium)

Sponsored by The Newton Alumni Program (British Academy) and the Belgian Association of Africanists

Organized by the CongoResearchNetwork and the Institute of Anthropological Research in Africa (K.U.Leuven)

Biyoya, Philippe, University of Lubumbashi


La refondation de l’Etat dans une perspective globaliste, nouvelle problématique politologique du futur de la République Démocratique du Congo

La consolidation de la démocratie après de longues années de guerres et de pratiques de pouvoir d’inspirations insurrectionnelle et criminelles, le renforcement des capacités des structures et des acteurs, la stabilité des institutions ainsi que la planification d’un avenir de paix aussi bien interne qu’externe figureront dans l’agenda globale de études de science politique congolaise. Mais contrairement aux tendances dominantes de la recherche sur le Congo Rd, tendances pessimistes d’un Etat fantôme, fictif ou encore sous-tutelle de Bob Kabamba dans la préface du livre de Evariste Mabi Mulumba, Congo-Zaïre. Les coulisses du pouvoir sous Mobutu (2011),  de Jean Claude Williame, ou encore de Banza Malde du retour à l’authenticité juridique de l’Etat congolais léopoldien, il devra plutôt s’agir de capter et de capitaliser les efforts de la Communauté des bailleurs de fonds du maintien du Congo dans le monde global par une problématique de globalisation des voies de l’avenir et du devenir institutionnels du Congo Rd. Dans la suite de Emile Bongeli Yakelo ya Ato, dans la mondialisation, l’Occident et le Congo-Kinshasa (2011), de l’Abbé Prof. Richard Mugaruka M., dans convertissez-vous et noyez au message du salut en trois tomes consacrés aux réflexions sur le rôle des Eglises dans la refondation de l’Etat et dans la restauration d’un Etat de droit en Rdc (2011), une approche de politique globale du futur de la Rdc devra viser à guérir la Rdc dans son double mal d’Etat et de nation, mal d’immobilisme du destin national en vue des voies nouvelles d’insertion au système mondial par la prise en charge des contraintes externes qui n’auront pas jusqu’ici favoriser l’affirmation et le développement des capacités à être une nation souveraine.

De Herdt, Tom, University of Antwerp


Donor’s Imagining DRC’s ‘future positive’

“In the development policy marketplace the orientation is always ‘future positive’”, and not without a reason, according to Mosse: “development actors work hardest of all to maintain coherent representations of their actions as instances of authorized policy” (Mosse 2004, 539-40). On the basis of their policy plans, aid money is mobilized and the development machine is put to work.

The international donor community reconnected to the DRC in 2001, the killing of president Joseph-Désiré Kabila being perceived as a major threat to the stability of the Central African region as a whole. The future imagined by the international community was one of pacification, state reconstruction and poverty reduction, connected to each other in a virtuous triangle: helping the state to reduce poverty would bring a peace dividend, stimulating people to end the war. A more pragmatic reading suggests that pacification was the prime concern and that a state-led strategy of poverty reduction was the keyword to get the DRC “on track” in the debt relief process, so that new aid money could be mobilized. The imagined ‘future positive’ created an unholy alliance between geopolitical interests, international creditors and the aid industry. In the meantime, the virtuous triangle proved quite vicious: Yes, aid resumed, attaining higher levels than ever before. Yes, the regime was consolidated. Yes, debt was partly repaid, partly cancelled. But no, there are no signs of a successful strategy of poverty reduction. In the meantime also, a new development paradigm has been promoted for the DRC. Privatization will be the new key to success.  As if asking a new question is meant to make us forget the absence of an answer to the previous one?

Gondola, Didier, Indiana University and Institut des Etudes Avancées, Nantes


isasa Makambo! Remembering the Future in the Congolese Urban Cauldron

My presentation first endeavors to complicate the category of time and interrupt its linearity, convenient arrangement and sequentiality. Second, I would like to toy with the idea that time is not just a figment of imagination, but also a temporal category that can be produced, constructed and turned on its head, especially within the Congolese urban Juggernaut where space no longer serves as a marker of time and where life destroys and entangles itself as with Ouroboros, the Greek mythical serpent which eats its own tail.   The cyclicality and circularity of time, rather than a linear stretch marked by progress, renewal, or what Marx calls creative destruction in his description of capitalism as a process accumulation and annihilation of wealth, looms large in the way Kinois make sense of time, and hence of their future. The way Kinois imagine the future is inextricably linked with their remembrance of the past and the challenges of a chaotic present. Finally, I would like to argue that rather than imagining the future, the Kinois are remembering their future in a way that befuddles most observers, that is by constructing the future as a golden age, a fleeting and evanescent bygone epoch that melts in the interstices of the past as they march toward lobilobi. This nostalgia for a bygone future is, I believe, at the heart of the urban malaise that grips Kinshasa.

Lagae, Johan, Ghent University


Can you draw me a map of this place?

Towards a new cartography for Congolese cities

For quite some time now, cities in Africa and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in particular, have been described in terms of a “breakdown of urban infrastructure”: dilapidated buildings, roads beyond the point of reparation, a lack of services such as water and electricity. While this has led some scholars to completely rethink the way we should look at urban environments arguing that we should also investigate the “invisible city”, others are still making a plea to analytically describe the physical breakdown in order to develop actions and interventions by means of planning and building projects. The former often present ways of reading the city that operate through media like photographs, literature, oral accounts while the latter seek to analyze and communicate via diagrams, statistical charts and maps. Somewhat simplified, one could say that we are confronted here with the opposition between the anthropological gaze and that of the planner, or, to use Rem Koolhaas’ categories, a gaze that is close versus one that is wide.

Given that in recent years, there have been several initiatives to develop new urban masterplans for Congolese cities (Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kisangani), echoing in a peculiar way previous practices of both colonial and postcolonial times when new spatial visions for cities often were based on extensive quantitative surveys, one can wonder if it is not timely to reassess the ways in which the space of the Congolese cities is usually mapped. Instead of seeing anthropology and planning as two oppositional modes of approaching the city, I want to make a plea for investigating new forms of cartography that combine them. Reading the urban territory as a palimpsest, and dissecting via historical analysis the different constitutive layers that it is made out of, one could produce, I argue, multilayered visual depictions in which knowledge from anthropology, sociology, economy, history,… is embedded, , thus allowing for a more complex, pluridisciplinary understanding of urban form and space. Such depictions might enable us to stimulate debates about the future of Congolese cities in which a much wider group of stakeholders, from policy makers to local communities, could engage.

Larmer, Miles, University of Sheffield


Katanga, 1960-1963: Alternative Imaginings of the African Nation-State

The Katangese secession is commonly viewed as externally driven, imposed by Belgian colonists, military officers and multi-national mining capital, to undermine the radical Congolese government of Patrice Lumumba. Without denying the importance of external actors, this paper explores Katanga’s indigenous roots, in the Conakat political party and its ethno-regional support base. It is argued that Conakat’s imagining of Katanga as an independent nation-state resembled parallel imaginings across Africa in the early 1960s, as nationalist leaders artificially constructed new nation-states on unstable and ambiguous foundations.

The paper analyses changing relations between the Katangese state and its Belgian sponsors. Following the assassination of Lumumba in 1961, Belgium sought the re-insertion of Katanga into a federal Congo. The Katangese political leadership’s refusal of this indicates the limits of Belgian ‘puppetry’. Conakat leaders displayed considerable agency in defending Katangese independence against the United Nations and the ‘international community’, which ended the secession in 1963.

The paper explores how Katanga was both imagined and constructed, suggesting that these were of as great salience to its subjects as the central Congolese state project. Central to this were the Weberian principles of the nation-state: monopolistic control over taxation revenue, and over armed force, in the form of the Katangese gendarmerie. The latter was central both to defending the secession and to maintaining its memory during subsequent exile. Analysing how the former gendarmes have maintained the memory of ‘Katanga’ aids our understanding of how competing ‘imagined communities’ continue to influence the politics of African nation-states.

Monaville, Pedro, University of Michigan


What is Left (of the Future): Rethinking the Congolese 1960s in the post-Cold War moment

This paper brings together specific discourses about the future, from the time of Congo’s decolonization and first decade of independence and from the post-Cold War, post-Mobutu present moment. These discourses embody different genres and were circulated on different supports, but they share a common, even if sometimes loose, connection to Left theories and expressions of political expectations.

In a first part, I present and discuss a couple of vignettes that both talk to the revival of imperialism as an interpretative trope in the Congolese mediascape. The first vignette starts with Wikileaks’ recent online publication of US diplomatic cable 10KINSHASA260 on “’Balkanization’ conspiracy theory – a challenge to PD outreach efforts in the DRC.” The cable expresses US diplomats’ worries about the circulation of “conspiracy theories” in the Congolese newsmedia in general, and by Tele 7’s and Le Potentiel’s Freddy Mulumba in particular. The second vignette centers on an interview given by hip hop singer LExxus Legal to a Belgian journalist in July 2011. The interview also conveys a vision of the future marked by conspiracy and the possibility of an imminent catastrophe, while much less geared towards the defense of the nation as Mulamba’s conversation with US diplomats.

In a second part of the paper, I go on to discuss these expressions of political expectations in the light of Charles Piot’s recent efforts to theorize a post-Cold War rupture in modes of governance, temporalities and imaginations of the future. I reckon with Piot’s arguments, but I question some of his chronological elaborations. The paper notably explores the longuer duree of Left’s visions of the future, and specifically conveys 1960s’ horizons of expectations.

In the last part of the paper, I return to the present moment and use anecdotes of my research with former student activists in Kinshasa. While these educated and urban men represent a thin social stratum, I suggest that their memories of the 1960s indicate a generational divide in the way people imagine the future in the Congo. In order to do that, I interrogate the different registers that defines their relationship to the past – forgetting, nostalgia, and dismissal – and how these registers impact on their conceptualization of the future.

Sarró, Ramon (University of Lisbon) and Anne Mélice (University of Liège)

ramonsarro@gmail.com ; amelice@yahoo.fr

The future in the present: entangled temporalities and religious life in the Kimbanguist church

In this paper we argue that two different temporalities are at play in Kimbanguist religious imagination. On the one hand, kimbanguists subscribe to a Christian, lineal time in which ontological evidence shows a historical, chronological continuity since the days of Jesus Christ to the present and to the future of the world. On the other hand, however, an analogical temporality shows that events that happened in Biblical times (including Jesus’ life) are parallel to kimbanguist historicity, not prior to it. We will then go a bit further in our exploration and show that not only the past is in the present, but also that notions about the future are, ipso facto, about the origins and ultimately about the present, about ‘the time that remains’, the real messianic time. At a theoretical level, we want to argue that if ‘the past’ is an authoritative mechanism in the making of political and religious subjectivities, as Maurice Bloch argued many years ago, eschatological notions of the future and of ‘hope’, a central notion in Kimbanguist religious life, are equally important in the making of the kimbanguist ‘form of life’ and equally susceptible of anthropological analysis.

Sumata, Claude, Catholic University of Congo


Doing Research against the Odds: The Impact of Colonization, Civil War, and Economic Hardship on Fieldwork in the DRC.

During the last decades, academic research has grown slowly in DRC as the Congolese economy has experienced mismanagement, civil war and economic setback. The government has not been able to sustain the levels of education and research expenditures that it did in the 1960s. The significant downturn of research and scientific activities is apparent especially in the universities where most scientific studies are undertaken. The subsequent turmoil has adversely impacted education and scientific research by preventing the necessary allocation of funds. Attempting fieldwork in this unstable environment is hazardous. The chaotic dynamic of instability related to conflict and post-conflict situations is fertile ground for risk, threat and suspicion of subversion, which hampers research implementation. It is wise to overturn tendency as empowering mankind can lead to technical progress and innovation. Furthermore the paradigm of endogenous growth establishes a direct link between knowledge and economic development.

Trefon, Théodore, Royal Museum of Central Africa


Do Elections really Matter?

Presidential and legislative elections have been the main issue on the DRC political landscape in recent months. While elections could be an important part of the ongoing democratic process in Congo, I argue that deep-rooted historical processes, political strategies, relations with international partners and complex social dynamics are all factors that undermine the impact that their results could have for the vast majority of Congolese. The electoral process concerns only a few individuals. Examining the decade that Joseph Kabila has been in power – and specifically the failure to implement institutional reform and improved social well-being – will help forecast some of the obstacles that face the Congo in the future. Congo is on the move. But positive change will come from the people – not from government and certainly not from outside interventions.


About Congo Research Network

The Congo Research Network (CRN) is a community of researchers working on DR Congo and its diaspora across the Humanities


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