Congo | A State Ecosystem
This thesis studies the ‘postcolonial African state’ still generally seen through the lens of state failure and fragility within IR. Employing a deconstructive and relational approach to studying state-society relations in urban Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I argue ‘the state’ continues to be reproduced and re-legitimized through a set of diffuse yet pervasive socio-material practices, systems of significance and historical traces. These three elements are constitutive of an analytical concept I term the ‘state ecosystem.’ The state ecosystem is a device through which to explore the emergence and societal solidification of the imaginary of the ‘state.’ It does so by tracing out how objects, times, spaces, and humans are composed together in their quotidian interactions to produce numerous ‘effects’ (in the case of the DRC: state distantiation, state humanization, and state anxieties) that define the fluid contents of what a state constitutes at any particular moment in time. In the case of the DRC, unpacking these ‘effects’ provides a different lens on its contemporary political and social situation. Rather than seeing the DRC as fundamentally ‘failed,’ a state ecosystem perspective allows us to uncover ambivalent yet striking instances of negotiation, accommodation, perseverance, and – ultimately – ‘progression’ in its trajectories. More broadly, a state ecosystem perspective thus provides a conceptual framework through which to reposition the figure of the postcolonial state as part of a global social and political system that is fundamentally intertwined in its evolution. Rather than relying solely on ‘western-centric’ concepts of what the state ‘should be,’ this thesis lays out what the state is, in one particular context, and provides a framework applicable to multiple other contexts.
Thesis Defence | September 19, 2018.
Final Submission | December 21, 2018.