Brokering Knowledge, Brokering Power in the DRC
Suda Perera (SOAS)
Paper short abstract:
This paper reflects on the role of the fixer in producing research on Africa. Using the case of a fixer in the DR Congo, it reflects on how knowledge is 'bought,' used and consumed with relatively little power given to local producers over its final use.
Paper long abstract:
Many outside researchers working in conflict-affected states such as the DRC used local fixers to provide up-to-date security advice, access to difficult-to-reach populations, and gather information that they otherwise could not gain themselves. Despite these local fixers being highly skilled and highly trained researchers in their own right, their contribution to the production of knowledge is rarely recognised beyond financial renumeration for their time. As a result, once the in-field data has been collected, many fixers have relatively little knowledge of, and almost no power over, how their research is used and consumed. If this data is ignored or doctored by the new research "owner" to fit particular narratives, the fixer is often powerless to contest it. This paper reflects on this troubling power dynamic through the experiences of a Congolese fixer (Victor Anas) and his role in producing knowledge on and in the DRC. The paper argues that while international power dynamics make it easier for outside researchers to gain funding to research within Africa, and that their expertise is often considered of higher-value than local expertise, it is incumbent on these outside researchers to acknowledge the vital role that local fixers play as co-producers of knowledge and as a form of expert on whom their own expertise relies.
The politics of funding knowledge production in Africa