Panel 1: The Sociology of Civil war

Kasper Hoffmann, University of Copenhagen, (chair)

Abstract: Constructed anarchy: governance, conflict and precarious property rights in Bukavu, DR Congo

In this article we analyse the nexus between conflict, property rights and land governance in Panzi neighbourhood on Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu. We show that Property rights are highly precarious in Panzi. This has led exasperated Congolese citizens to label the complex issue of property rights as “property anarchy,” or “anarchic constructions”. In the brief, we argue that these references to “anarchy” and “disorder” should not to be taken at face value. Instead, they are produced through daily practices of land governance. Specifically, we show that the phenomenon of “property anarchy” is not the result of a spontaneous and chaotic process of urbanisation. Instead they are to a large extent the result of a set of governance practices deployed by land authorities in which the law—paradoxically—is applied to ensure that the vast majority of people’s plots and buildings do not comply with the law. Yet, other factors are also highly important including rural-urban migration and residents self-governance practices. Consequently, most Panzi residents’ property rights are temporal and ephemeral. The disenfranchisement of people’s land rights is upheld by a myriad of micro-practices of power, enacted by a multitude of land authorities that compete and collaborate with each other in unpredictable patterns. In order acquire a modicum of tenure security, Panzi’s residents tend to either circumvent the law or play along with the alternative rules imposed by the land authorities. In doing so, they involuntarily become complicit in the “misrule of law”. Hence, Bukavu’s property anarchy has become systemic and it affects poor people and wealthy people alike, albeit to varying degrees.

Koen Vlassenroot, Ghent University,

Gilles Dorronsoro, Pantheon-Sorbonne University,

Esther Marijnen, Ghent University,

Abstract: Wounded landscapes: Understanding nature-society relations in times of war

Forests fulfil multiple functions in times of war. While some people find refuge in forests, for others these spaces become battle or execution sites. Moreover, rebel groups might use forests to re-organise, train and plan attacks from. Going beyond this functionalist understanding of forests, and nature more generally, this paper aims to explore the dialectical relation between nature and society in times of violent conflict. Through focussing on changing agricultural relations, we can understand how environments are militarised, and how peoples connection with the landscape influences, and is influenced by war, resulting in ‘wounded landscapes’. To do so, I build on Derek Gregory’s ‘natures of war’ where he approached nature as “a medium through which military and paramilitary violence is conducted” (2015). Where Gregory focussed on the bodily experiences of soldiers in different environments, I aim to integrate socioecological relations during war more broadly, when analysing multiple ‘wounded landscapes’ in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Josaphat Musamba, Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de Bukavu,