Congo Cop: Performing the State in Central Africa

In: Afrika Focus
Michel Thill Post-doctoral Research Assistant, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom,

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My dissertation is about everyday police work, the effects of police reform and the state in the Democratic Republic of Congo (drc). Despite the role of the police in state–society relations, in Congo and the wider region that role remains under-explored. My thesis asks in what ways police practices and encounters with the public reproduce, sustain or collapse Congo’s state. Based on a year of immersive field work during which I followed police officers from the classroom via the station to the street, I argue that officers make police work possible through their everyday performativity that draws on, combines and subverts rationalities of three entangled governmentalities. The resulting Craft of the Congo Cop lies in the ability to reconcile colliding governmentalities and project the state as a temporary yet convincing effect of authority. From this inherently contingent performative process, the state in Congo emerges as a composite of temporary and fast-changing effects.

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