Investing in weakness: young people's engagement with contemporary patronage relationships in a place ruled by violence
Claudia Seymour (Graduate Institute)
Paper short abstract:
This paper considers how young people living in urban centres in eastern DRC attempt to enter patronage relationships to access resources and support, investing in a social system of exclusion and inequality in the hopes of improving short-term survival prospects.
Paper long abstract:
Studies on young people's resilience to adversity in conflict-affected contexts have evolved from an early focus on individual psychological development to multilevel analyses which assume the fundamental importance of social environments for achieving well-being (Panter-Brick and Leckman 2013), and to considering resilience in terms of one's capacity to access resources that sustain well-being (Ungar 2008). Juxtaposing the current advances in resilience research with the established body of patronage literature (Scott 1972, Tilly 2003, McLean 2005), this paper considers how young people living in urban centres in the Kivu provinces of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) attempt to enter patronage relationships to access resources and support. In the Kivus, social support capacities have been highly strained by increasing material difficulties faced by the majority of the population, a strain which has been compounded by decades of violence. Traditional patronage systems in the Kivus have been further distorted in recent decades by the massive infusion of international humanitarian aid. In a context where livelihood opportunities are scarce, the tactics adopted by many young people reveal the continuous tension between gaining access to resources to by pay for health care or basic education, and increasing one's position of weakness and vulnerability entering unequal patron-based relationships. With few alternatives, young people invest in a social system of exclusion and inequality, as it represents their only chance for improving short-term survival prospects. This paper is based on qualitative research conducted with young people in the Kivus between 2010 and 2015.
Villes, inégalités et conflits en Afrique contemporaine