P062 – Governing by Crisis: The Impact of Dichotomous Framing of Governance Challenges
9 July, 09:00 – 10:30

Schomerus Mareike / LSE


Recent scholarship has focused on how the notion of ‘crisis’ has become a permanent condition of life in certain African contexts (Vigh 2008) as well as having been turned into a modus of governance which allows the shaping of a political narrative evolving around extraordinary measures, including lenience and flexibility (Roitman, 2013). A critical consensus seems to be emerging that ‘crisis’ has become a social reality beneficial to those able to manipulate a situation that has been deemed extraordinary. Yet policy and practice seem to comfortably operate in ‘crisis’ mode. Here ‘crisis’, and the extraordinary measures the label evokes, conveniently limit the need for references to long-term social, political, and economic factors that lie behind situations deemed a ‘crisis’. ‘Crisis’ has thus moved from modus vivendi to include a dimension of modus operandi.
The contributions will explore fresh perspectives on the creation or manipulation of ‘crisis’ as a modus operandi for local, national or international actors, including papers that engage with the dichotomous framing of a situation of being in or out of crisis—and the consequences of such crisis narratives. The panel is interested in both empirical case studies and theoretical reflections that highlight the power of crisis narratives—or indeed the absence of such narratives—in particular circumstances.

L’engagement régional renforce-t-il la sécurité ? Un aperçu de la Corne de l’Afrique et de l’Afrique centrale
Les sources de la sécurité et de l’insécurité ne sont que très rarement le produit unique de dynamiques nationales. Les intérêts transfrontaliers où régionaux des acteurs étrangers portent aux ressources, enjeux politiques ou militaires locaux, ont une influence essentielle dans ce contexte. Les acteurs régionaux facilitent les négociations de paix (par exemple, l’IGAD au Soudan du Sud), mettent en place des opérations de maintien de la paix (par exemple, les missions de l’Union Africaine en Somalie et en RCA) et poursuivent leurs propres agendas militaires dans les pays voisins (par exemple, la poursuite de la LRA par l’Ouganda). La proposition “de solutions régionales aux problèmes régionaux” qui a été la réponse de la communauté internationale aux problèmes de sécurité dans la Corne de l’Afrique et dans l’Afrique centrale, doit en ce sens être examinée de façon critique.
Les contributions explorent les divers engagements des acteurs régionaux dans les états voisins, et leur impact sur la gouvernance locale de la sécurité dans des régions où la présence de l´État est limitée. Nous portons un intérêt particulier aux recherches empiriquement ancrées portant sur, entre autres, les conséquences involontaires de l’engagement régional, les facteurs de dérive de la mission ou l’économie politique transfrontalière, sous l’angle de l’influence de ces configurations sur les dynamiques de la sécurité locale.


Paper 1

Slater Rachel / ODI

What does it mean to be post-crisis? Reflections from research in eight conflict-affected countries

Despite recognition that crises are often protracted and that countries frequently slide back into conflict following the cessation of violence or the signing of peace agreements, donor programming and modalities for delivering aid often reflect a stark dichotomy between crisis and post-crisis, or conflict and post-conflict.  This paper uses data from the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium’s baseline surveys and qualitative work in DRC, Uganda, Sierra Leone and South Sudan to challenge the assumption of a clear distinction between conflict and post-conflict.  It does so in two ways: first, by showing how, during conflict, many of the threats to people’s wellbeing and livelihoods are not related to conflict and yet donors (and researchers too) tend to use a conflict lens to develop policies and design programmes and employ particular modus operandi in conflict settings; and second, by demonstrating how the legacies of conflict – especially in relation to people’s capacity to improve or recover their livelihoods – rarely tally with the speed at which development actors seek to move forward.

Paper 2

Buerge Michael / University of Konstanz

Sierra Leone in crisis: discerning and fighting the causes for individual and communal suffering

At least since the end of the 1980s, Sierra Leone apparently stumbles from one crisis into another. The civil war in the 1990s, the outcome of a ‘crisis of youth’ or ‘of the (patrimonial) state’, was followed by crises in national politics, global food prices and transnational drug smuggling urging or allowing various (inter)national actors to intervene. Today, the country faces the biggest crisis since the end of the war. Ebola, an invisible enemy, threatens the safety and security of the population, urging again for exceptional measures to get hold of it. Against this backdrop, in my presentation I focus on how ordinary people navigate or govern their everyday precarious condition. Although seldom using the term ‘crisis’, people perceive their lives as being afflicted by various ‘illnesses’ and continuous suffering. Suffering and sickness of the individual are intertwined with those of the mutually and intersubjectively produced social body. This presentation aims at portraying practices in which people diagnose the causes for affliction and prescribe remedy. People, I argue, locate the causes for individual and general sufferings of the community among the immediate social actors, fellow citizens and their jealous ‘bad hearts’. Healing of the social body and one’s destiny is tried through isolation of the cause, that is, social marginalisation of the culprits/scapegoats, and if possible their correction and submissive reintegration.

Paper 3

Dantzler Camille / Howard University

Trending Imaginaries:  Rumors and Dissent in Post-Genocide Constructions of Rwanda

The objective of this research paper is to analyze how rumors, defined as ” A currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth” become a site of contested space in the political authority over Rwanda’s national identity, spearheaded by the Government of Rwanda (GOR). The management of this identity is contingent upon the assemblage of contradictory assertions of democratization, liberalism, and policy-making, which simultaneously has required a foreclosure on freedoms of speech, media, and political exercise to the majority of Rwandans in the country. By presenting an interrogation of the interplay of ‘sites’ of construction on the local, national, and international level, we are able to capture the tensions that arise both within and outside of the country in relation to the progression of the state. This work provides the complexities of a ‘post-genocide era’ and spaces that expose the material realities of constructing a ‘new’ Rwanda as mediated by various actors. The analysis of media sources of rumors regarding Democratic Republic of the Congo-Rwanda relations and the subsequent UN Security Council M23 report, the viral spread of Paul Kagame’s death January 10, 2014,  and the nature of aid sources and policy-making provide agential space for exposing the mounting exclusions of Rwandan citizentry today.

Paper 4

Pritchard Nicola / University of Glasgow

Domestic Water Access in Tanzania; Policy, Praxis and the Normalisation of Crisis

Water access in Dar es Salaam has existed with a myriad of problems for some time. The city’s water system has been unable to keep up with rapid urban growth, and several pockets of the city have been forced to come up with their own means of water access. Recent policy changes have formalised community provision as a legitimised means of water access, disregarding the inability of communities to procure, organise and maintain a local water system. Nationwide, water policy continues to be updated and new initiatives are put in place, serving as an example of a “parallax movement” (Zizek, 2006) in which new layers are added to policy with no real change materialising. The vital narrative missing, however, is that an absence of water, a vital resource for life and right, is an example of crisis. The coping mechanisms employed by Tanzanians are still not enough to meet their needs and as new policy ideas are discussed at the macro-level, the debilitating reality at the grassroots is seldom acknowledged or discussed with any sense of urgency. Additionally, the state continues to pass the responsibility of water provision to international and local organisations, exacerbating pressure on an increasingly saturated sector that must compete for resources and is in crisis itself. This paper aims to address how the concept of crisis mediates through several aspects of the water sector in Tanzania, serving as a permanent backdrop that has masqueraded as normality for those involved.

Paper 5

Mahe Anne-Laure / University of Montreal

Thriving on chaos : violent conflict as a factor of authoritarian resiliency in Sudan.

The existence of violent conflict in nondemocratic settings is often interpreted as a sign of the coming downfall of the regime. Recent scholarship on authoritarian resiliency reinforces this point by depicting violence as an ineffective strategy for authoritarian leaders in the long run (Saideman and Zahar, 2008). But how then do we explain the survival of authoritarian regimes plagued by conflict, such as al-Bashir’s Sudan? This paper argues that in order to answer that question, the prevalence of violence needs to be interpreted as creating a context of opportunities for the regime, and not only as a crisis it needs to deal with.
As such, the paper builds upon both the literature on authoritarianism resiliency that emphasizes the importance of clientelism and cooptation (Brownlee 2007, Gandhi 2009) and anthropological approaches of conflict highlighting the importance of micro-level dynamics (Kalyvas 2006; Wood 2008). It argues that armed conflicts can actually further authoritarianism through a mechanism of commodification of violence. This process is demonstrated with a case study of the sudanese regime, where it is shown how violence in itself has been turned into a good to be exchanged in a clientelistic relationship.
In the end, the paper makes a case for the necessity to theoretically distinguish the concept of instability from the ones of durability and resiliency so as to explain the survival of authoritarianism in contexts that are often hastily deemed chaotic.

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