‘For those of us who had to stay behind’: Civilian agency under rebel governance

March 23, 2016 @ 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
280N York Lanes
York University
Toronto, ON M3J
Michele Millard

Speaker: Carla Suarez, doctoral candidate in Political Science at Dalhousie University

Based on an eight-month comparative study of two rural communities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), this presentation explores the other side of forced displacement. It focuses on those who stayed behind as opposed to those who fled during the armed violence. It examines civilians’ experiences in areas that fell under the governance of rebel groups. In particular, it analyzes how civilians understood and navigated the norms, rules and structures introduced by rebel groups. This includes a wide spectrum of tactics: from how civilians learn to assess possibilities and limitations of collaboration, to how they learn when, where and how to negotiate in order to influence the governing regime. The presentation argues that civilian agency in the context of rebel governance is often shaped by previous regimes of violence, exclusion and uncertainty. Examining how civilians justify and rationalize their decisions during this period shows us not only how they understand the broader context, but also how they situate themselves within it.


Carla Suarez is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Dalhousie University. She was a visiting scholar at the Centre for Refugee Studies from 2013 to 2014. Her main research interests are on the micro-dynamics of violence during and after armed conflict, with a particular focus on the different ways non-state armed groups organize themselves, the territories they control, and their relations with civilians. Carla’s work has been published in Stability: International Journal of Security and Development and Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses. Her work is funded by the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.