Undoing Research on Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo


  • Charlotte Mertens University of Melbourne




DRC, representations, sexual violence, knowledge production, methodology, conflict


In the last decade the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) figures on the international radar as a place of horrific sexual violence and ‘vile barbarity’. Drawing on ethnographic research in eastern DRC, this paper argues that these framings have a contaminating effect on the researcher and the way that knowledge is produced and mediated. What does it mean to do research on violence in the ‘rape capital of the world’? It addresses three significant ‘fields of power’ that emerge when conducting research in a violent setting as a politically and geographically situated researcher. First, the paper argues that a colonial imaginary, which produces racial and sexual hierarchies, informs contemporary representations on sexual violence. Second, it critically examines current knowledge on sexual violence in eastern DRC that, primarily drawing on victims’ testimonies, may reinforce harmful framings. Third, the paper shows how I shaped my research in relation to ‘toxic’ discourses on sexual violence. In doing so, this article reflects on what it means to ‘undo’ research from a ‘violent’ space by disrupting received knowledge on sexual violence and critically exploring the researcher’s responsibility in representing violence as experienced by others and his/her complicity in perpetuating harmful framings.

Author Biography

Charlotte Mertens, University of Melbourne

PhD Candidate, Social and Political Sciences


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How to Cite

Mertens, C. (2019). Undoing Research on Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(3), 662–687. https://doi.org/10.14288/acme.v18i3.1594