STREAM: The Everyday in DR Congo: Negotiating Change and Continuity in Precarious Times

STREAM: The Everyday in DR Congo: Negotiating Change and Continuity in Precarious Times

The everyday in DR Congo: negotiating change and continuity in precarious times

The 2018 stream invites scholars to reflect on experiences, imaginations and representations of “the everyday” in the DR Congo, past and present. The “everyday” can mean a range of things in this context including but not limited to manifestations of value, rhythms of social life, mobilities of words, sounds, monies and people depending on economic possibilities, political events, and social demands. We are looking to address questions such as: what forms can the everyday take in war-zones; in a house where the husband has migrated in order to look for economic opportunities; in a village where ethnic conflicts are latent and can be awakened at any time; in cities where the difference between the rich and the poor is becoming increasingly exacerbated; in migrant contexts where one is confronted on a daily basis with expectations for remittances, travel opportunities and other family responsibilities  to those who have been left behind?

We are also interested in analyses that acknowledge how one’s “everyday” can suddenly change, for the better or for the worse. How is change – defined in a very broad sense, from destructive rupture to productive improvement – actively managed, given meaning, and connected to personal and more social dynamics? How does one’s everyday change when an accident, illness or death occurs?  what impact does marriage, birth, success in school, the selling of cows, and finding valuable stones also have on everyday lives? How does one “learn” new everyday rhythms and practices when arriving in a new village, city or even country? How do chance, miracle, witchcraft, and anointment sit together with claims about “tradition”, bad leadership, economic exploitation, faulty infrastructure, and the economic crisis? We are also interested in hearing from scholars who have examined how have similar changes been managed in historical contexts. How have people managed witch-finding episodes, migration, conversion and labour relations in the recent and deeper past? And how did and do these impact on everyday encounters, cohabitation and confrontations?

We expect panels to emphasize the varieties of “Congolese everydays” in order to do justice to the different worlds that Congolese inhabit. Geography, class, gender and religion contribute to the variegated ways of living life, of daily rhythm, and their materialities. With the “Congolese everyday”, we also include the Congolese diaspora, as electronic communication, travel and affect are traded across national borders on a daily basis.

Confirmed Panels

Panel 1: Christian Institutions and Political Contestation in the DRC

Panel convenors: Katrien Pype (KU Leuven University and University of Birmingham); Sublime Mabiala (University of Edinburgh)

Discussant: David Maxwell, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

  • Transnationalism in Mobutu’s Zaire: Ecclesiology as a critique of nationalism. (Dr Emma Wild-Wood, Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
  • What if Caesar were under Christ’s rule?: Re-Imagining the Religion-Politics nexus in the post-cold war D.R. Congo ( Sublime Mabiala, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
  • Eglises et Etat en République Démocratique du Congo de 1885 à 2018. Engagement pour les missions prophétique et libératrice” ( Dr. Robert N’kwim bibi-bikan Université Protestante au Congo, Kinshasa​, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Panel 2: Visual/Artistic Cultures as Portable Monuments of the Congo

Panel convenors: Prof. Dr. Véronique Bragard (UC Louvain) and Dr. Bambi Ceuppens (RMCA), Belgium

Ann Rigney’s concept of portable monument has shown that literature can participate in the production and reproduction of cultural memory (Rigney 113). In the  decolonial period, artistic expressions created by Congolese artists can be read as presenting “a sense of a common heritage” but also as sites that make visible the “revenant”, to use Mbembe’s terminology, the colonial ghosts that come to haunt and destabilize the present in transformative ways.

Congolese visual art forms are often anchored or based on testimonies, made up of bits and pieces of street objects, or cultural memories that are aestheticized, fictionalized, reshaped to bear their own sorts of testimony. Visual/music/literary artists become historians or past collectors that engage with material memory to provide bridges between generations. Their art gestures towards an evolving understanding of the social and political situations of the Congo.

How are these historical documents, archives, street objects, victims’ testimonies used, transformed, estheticized? This panel seeks to address how Congolese artists like Sammy Baloji, Kiripi Katembo, Emmanuel Botalatala, Steve Nadoma, Mega Mingiedi Tunga, Sinzo Aanza, working in the Congo or elsewhere, deploy art superimpositions, recycling techniques and reflections to bear a specific and engaged message close to testimony where responsibility and truth are at play. Testimonies, reportage forms, archives, independence songs, are engaged with to become sites of confrontation that speak back to power. This panel will analyze how the traditional testimony is re-appropriated to become more than just a political instrument but  “a practice that forges new concerns, commitments, and identities” (Givoni 149).

PANEL 3: Mokili Ebende | A World of Steel: Understanding everyday (in)security in urban Congo through stories from below.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), images of insecurity and uncertainty are plenty and
powerful: Armed groups battling soldiers and civilians alike, state agents harassing the population,
politicians engaging in violent mobilization tactics, youth gangs terrorizing their peaceful neighbours,
multi-national corporates lining the pockets of the elite in dismal disregard towards the suffering of
millions. In the shadow of such colourful headlines, Congolese forge their everyday existence, come what
may. But how exactly?

Through an exploration of urban spaces, subjectivities and materials, this panel would like to capture
some of the various ways, in which (in)security and uncertainty manifest themselves in the quotidian
lives of urban dwellers in the DRC. How does insecurity and uncertainty impact their daily choices and
determine their everyday practices? Presentations will explore the role of mining boomtowns in youth’s
capacity to navigate the ever-changing conflict landscapes in the eastern DRC; the ways youth gangs
portray themselves and their political subjectivity through the medium of film in Goma; the function of
uniforms in the self-worth of street-level police in Bukavu; and the work practices of bureaucrats
attempting to overcome their waning legitimacy and redress the symbolic power of the state in Kinshasa,
Lubumbashi and Goma.

  • Maarten Hendriks (Ghent University, Belgium)
  • Karen Büscher (Ghent University, Belgium)
  • Michel Thill (Ghent University, Belgium)
  • Stéphanie Perazzone (The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland)

If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Katrien Pype (; Toni Smith ( and Rueben Loffman ( For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 


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