Lakes as Rebellious Landscapes: From ‘Fishing Rebels’ to ‘Fishy State Officials’ in DR Congo

Esther Marijnen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Lakes are rarely considered to be political spaces in the literature on the inter-linkages between landscapes, authority, and armed conflict. Scholars mainly focussed on the role of mountains, forests, and mud fields, in war and resistance, and examine how a variety of state(-like) actors try to make these ́unrulý spaces legible. This article discusses the frictions that emerge when the management of Virunga National Park in eastern DR Congo tries to retake control of Lake Edward through infrastructural and military interventions. These interventions not only encounter resistance from multiple rebel groups that hold various fishing villages along the shores of Lake Edward, but also from other state authorities present in the area—‘fishing rebels’ and ‘fishy state officials’. Drawing on a longue durée perspective to understand contemporary contestations allows us to move beyond focussing on practices of illegal fishing in conflict areas and, instead, embed such issues within the broader historically shaped political and social landscapes of power. Park authorities aim to carve the lake into ‘enclaves’—to counter subversion and render fishing sustainable—neglecting the ways in which the lake is interconnected. This article argues that we should abandon the dichotomy of landscapes as either producing subversive politics/rebellion or as controlled by ‘the state’. Instead of approaching landscapes in conflict areas —in this case lakes— as ‘rebel landscapes’ they should be approached as ‘rebellious landscapes’, as they are controlled fluidly amongst different de facto authorities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGeoforum
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Armed conflict
  • DR Congo
  • Fishing
  • Lakes
  • Landscapes
  • Political ecology
  • Political geography
  • Public authority
  • Rebellious landscapes
  • War

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