Living with violence: institutions, networks and social processes

I am interested in how society affects violence and, in turn, how violence and chronic insecurity affect society. In particular, I am curious as to why violence can be so persistent in some cases, despite extensive national and international investment in peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

Consequently, my research explores how ordinary people experience and negotiate chronic insecurity on a daily basis and examines the reciprocal relationship between the individual institutions people use; the institutional networks they are embedded in and those social processes which interact with, and affect, levels, expressions and patterns of violence.

In order to study institutional change and trace its interaction with its members, as well as with key social processes (including violence), I use mixed methods to develop a detailed case study of Masisi, a historically volatile area of eastern DR Congo. Such an approach allows me to highlight patterns in social relations over time, as well as identify social processes which may have contributed to them. Significantly, such an approach also provides evidence to support historical process tracing in relation to critical events.

Though based on a detailed case study, the research probes wider social dynamics. I hope its analysis and findings will add to our understanding of society in war, and make a contribution to both scholarship and practice.  

Solange Fontana
Research Student