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Securing Insecurity: Rethinking Livelihoods, Violence, and Vulnerability in DRC's Cannabis Trade

Venue: Stanford main campus, Encina Hall West (616 Serra Street), Room 202.

Speaker: Dr. Ann A. Laudati, Lecturer of Human-Environmental Geography, University of Bristol.

Host: Center for African Studies, as part of the Africa Table series.

When speaking of the stark differences between the international attention given to conflict timber compared to that of conflict minerals, a blood diamond campaigner stated, “Diamonds are sexy and logs are not” (Yearsley, 2000; Cited in Le Billion 2003:271). Academic research on ‘war economies’ and scholarship seeking to uncover the realities of the ‘resource curse’, have seemingly been seduced by similar temptations. Today, much of the literature linking natural resources and violent conflict, focuses on the exploitation, the trade, and the impact of mineral economies, ignoring in the process the role that a broader repertoire of natural resources plays in shaping violence, and subsequently in ensuring peace.  This presentation centers on one of these previously undertheorized and understudied non-mineral economies. Drawing from four months of qualitative research on the trade in marijuana in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, I'll consider the dual role that marijuana plays for local livelihoods as well as a source of violence. Contrary to commonly held opinion of marijuana’s influence on violence, however, I will present an alternative story of drug related violence in the region. Namely, this presentation argues that the dangers stemming from an entanglement with the drug are rather, as one informant aptly stated, the result of ‘security’.  Building on a rich anthropological foundation which seeks to understand ‘the everyday violence’ in warscapes, and contributing to a growing but yet still unfulfilled political ecology of war, this talk presents a case study which contends that the violence associated with Congo’s drug problem lies not with the people who take the drugs nor with those who traffic them but rather it is its very prohibition that shapes violence in the region.