Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of Michigan

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Michigan
Always Kadogo: The Mobilization of Children in Conflict and the Legacies of Social Marginalization in North Kivu, Congo (DRC), 1959-2003

Thousands of children are making war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite international condemnation combatants under the age of 15 remain vital constituents of Congo's informal armies. The scale of violence in the region is overwhelming: over five million Congolese have died since conflict began in 1996. In the province of North Kivu fighting rages on. The aspirations of groups on all sides, most notably those belonging to a loose affiliation of militias known as Mai-Mai, are borne on the backs of young fighters called kadogo (little ones) in Swahili. As these children leave the battlefield and return to their homes urgent questions emerge concerning how best to deal with the consequences of their violence: in their own lives, in their immediate families, and within their home communities. This project seeks to historicize the contemporary role of children in eastern Congo's conflicts. By tracing genealogies, through both kinship and ideology, between the involvement of children in the recent Congo Wars and the Simba Rebellion of 1964—the first postcolonial conflict in Congo to see the heavy recruitment of children—my dissertation aims to help make sense of violence being committed by young warriors in contemporary North Kivu. This project will attempt to locate the discourses of belonging, marginalization, social maturity, and power that were being converted into a vocabulary of violence by child soldiers in both eras. In uncovering this language of power and tracing its violent inscription on individual bodies and in eastern Congolese communities, I seek to link the mobilization of children five decades ago and today in ways that enable policy makers and social scientists to more effectively understand and interpret the meaning of violence committed by militarized children in Africa's Great Lakes region.