Rural materialism and peripheral rebels: Re-thinking peasantry and politics in conflict-areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

01 January 2020 → 14 September 2022
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Other political science not elsewhere classified
Peasantry Armed group Peripheral rebels Rural materialism Political actor
Project description

Over the past two decades, the literature on armed groups in the DRC has portrayed the peasantry as either an accomplice or a victim of violent conflict. Rooted in an armed group-focussed approach, the victim and the accomplice bias have contributed to erasing the peasantry as a political actor in the DRC. Its political importance has been ignored within peace-building, demobilisation and rural development programmes, which explains part of their failure. This project proposes three main innovative perspectives on the peasantry at the epistemological, theoretical, and methodological level. First, it develops the hypothesis that the peasantry is a fullyfledged political actor in the DRC. The link of our analysis to a rural sociology of emergences will play an important role to get rid of the impasse within rural sociology on the political character of the peasantry; Secondly, we advance the concept of the peripheral rebel, referring to young men who joined armed groups, not in order to survive or in seeing it as a way-of-life, but to defend a specific sociocultural heritage and a way of living and belonging to a territory. These rebels’ motivations are embedded within what we define as rural materialism; Thirdly, we offer a methodological innovation through the use of participatory action-theatre, which allows to access tacit knowledge and hidden transcripts around local community’s struggles in a non-confrontational way and to explain local complexity in conflict contexts.