Accepted Paper:

Recasting "the local" in peacebuilding and post-war governance: illustrations from DRC, Burundi and South Sudan  


Andreas Hirblinger (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies)
Claudia Simons (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the construction of “the local” in post-war governance. In contrast to conventional uses of the term “local” in the peacebuilding and development research, we suggest turning analysis on the relation between the constitution of local subjectivity, locality and power.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the construction of local subjectivity and locality in post-war government in Sub-Sahara Africa. We develop a critique of relevant literature on peace-building, post-war governance and development, which prominently draws on the notion of "the local". We claim that scholarly uses of the term "local" are problematic, as they produce essentialising, and orientalist representations of a "local" other. Both practitioners and scholars imagine, construct, and then speak for the local and represent the local as relatively coherent, bounded and stable. The epistemic practices do not only mask complex and powerful political realities, but by themselves become part of the political struggle. We thus claim that" the local" has developed from a marker of scale and into a category of subjectivity. We suggest turning the focus of analysis to the processes of "becoming local". We will draw on post-colonial, feminist and post-structural approaches, as well as on contributions on the relational construction of space and scale. We conceptualize the process of becoming local as constituted by 1) practices of discursive construction 2), legal and administrative institutions, and 3) material factors. We finally develop an analytical perspective on post-war government which sheds light on the conflictual practices of local construction exercised by political actors , and the constant drawing, re-drawing, and trespassing of boundaries between different localities claiming political significance in the post-war polity. The theoretical argument will be illustrated by empirical studies from peacebuilding in the DRC, Burundi and South Sudan.

Panel P027
Territory and community: the scalar dimensions of political authority, identity and conflict in contemporary Africa