Dr Clara Devlieger

Dr Clara Devlieger

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology

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English, French
Key Expertise
Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa

About me

Clara Devlieger is a specialist in the anthropology of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central Africa, with research interests in disability, distribution, urban livelihoods, and rights and responsibilities.  

Her research is based on long-term fieldwork in Kinshasa, the capital city of the DRC, as well as in Brazzaville, the neighbouring capital of the Republic of Congo (RC), and their connected regions. Clara’s research explores experiences of difference and desires for welfare. Her focus has been on the livelihood strategies of physically disabled adults who make a living thanks to unregulated practices of poverty alleviation, such as systems of organised begging or brokerage over the river border between Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Because of the controversial nature of these activities, she has been particularly interested in how people judge who is ‘deserving’ of aid, which activities can be considered as ‘work’, and what gives a person social and economic value in a postcolonial metropolis like Kinshasa. Her work was a runner-up for the 2018 African Studies Association of the UK Audrey Richards Prize, and she is currently editing a monograph that addresses these questions.  

At a time when many Congolese people (like others across the world) are increasingly making demands on the state to provide social protection, Clara’s next project considers the bio-political dimensions of organised social welfare. Exploring social outreach programmes as much as substantive redistribution projects, the project will investigate how the promise of welfare can shape the social landscape of the city, as the classificatory label of ‘vulnerability’ becomes a qualification for a share of the country’s resources. Building on these interests, Clara is also developing a larger project exploring themes of mobility, environment, and the social good in Central Africa.

Expertise Details

Democratic Republic of Congo; Central Africa; Disability; Rights and responsibilities; Identity and difference; Distribution and welfare; Personhood; Humour; Moralities and judgement; Urban anthropology; Borders; Uncertainty

Selected publications

‘Contractual Dependencies: Disability and the Bureaucracy of Begging in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.’ American Ethnologist, 45:4 (2018), (Forthcoming)

 ‘Disability’ in Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, edited by F. Stein, M. Candea, H. Diemberger, S. Lazar, J. Robbins, A. Sanchez and R. Stasch (2018), http://dx.doi.org/10.29164/18disab 

‘Rome and the Romains: Laughter on the border between Kinshasa and Brazzaville’ Africa, 88:1 (2018), 160-182.