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Infrastructural empire? The politics and poetics of the built environment in Belgian Congo (1908-1960)

  • Peer Schouten
Tuesday 7 June 2016
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference Room (2nd floor)

The emergence of modern political order in Europe was made possible by the development of ways of governing that hinged on infrastructures on a hitherto unprecedented scale. Between roughly 1870-1914, something took place which has been called the ‘second industrial revolution’. It was tightly bound up with the expansion of what Michael Mann calls state ‘infrastructural power’, facilitating the consolidation of states much as we know them today.

In colonies such as the Congo, a different order materialized. When infrastructures were introduced to colonial power relations, they led to the formation of a political order very different from the one that emerged in Europe.

This lecture explores the role that infrastructure played in the colonization of Congo. It provides an overview of the drastic expansion of colonial interventions in the built environment of Congo during the Belgian Congo period, and explores the manifold consequences these had for the nature of colonial order.

Peer Schouten is a postdoctoral fellow at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), editor-in-chief at Theory Talks, and an associate researcher at the International Peace Information Service in Antwerp. His overall research interests include, among others, International Relations theory; conflict dynamics in volatile environments; the role of business in peace and conflict; mineral extraction and conflict economies; and the politics of infrastructure. He has extensive field experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

Alanna O'Malley will provide comments.

Everyone interested is welcome to join the lecture.

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