University of California, Berkeley (United States)


This proposal makes visible the experiences and insights of those living under Covid-19 in insecure spaces. In particular, this project partners five Northern-based scholars with five different research associates from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, who will maintain semistructured diaries over a period of eight weeks. Diarists will observe and record three initial overarching topics: (1) the personal impact and effect of the virus on their lives as well as on their household and communities; (2) the development of coping strategies, with particular attention to the emergence of innovative grassroots support systems and activist networks, and (3) the circulation, uses, and impact of rumors, information, and disinformation. In doing so, through the use of diaries, the project develops a novel practice of conducting remote research in response to the many challenges Covid-19 has created. Additionally, in letting the voices of our global South collaborators speak, the project promotes transnational research collaboration, thus de-centering Europe and the United States as the principal location of knowledge production and dissemination. Finally, this project recognizes the critical importance of collecting research and knowledge about the world particularly during this moment of crisis, and that we still have a commitment to those who we work with. The main intended output will consist of a collective blog series whereby each of the five researchers collaborates with his/her colleagues in writing a separate blog on the findings of the journal entries.

Principal Investigators

Ann Laudati

Instructor of Human-Environmental Geography, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Ann A. Laudati is currently an instructor in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies Fellow. She is a broadly trained human-environmental geographer with specializations in political ecology, conservation and development, and natural resource violence in sub-Saharan Africa. Her current research program forwards a comprehensive “ecologies of violence,” which explores the role of peripheral economies in the wider social struggles over resources and livelihood in Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern territories. Based on extensive fieldwork in the region since 2009, her work seeks to reveal how the engagement of a diverse set of actors in peripheral economies beyond minerals promote the continuation of and shape Congo’s violent landscape, how they are reflective of and mediated by wider sociopolitical struggles, and the transformative effects they may offer to peacebuilding and development in the region.

Charlotte Mertens

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Melbourne

Dr. Charlotte Mertens is a researcher at the University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on sexual violence in conflict settings, particularly in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. She is interested in representations of violence, humanitarianism, the sexual politics of empire, colonial histories, and racial epistemologies. Her research is attentive to histories of colonialism and how these endure in the present in eastern Congo. She has been conducting fieldwork in the DR Congo since 2012 and has worked extensively in the colonial archives.

Stephanie Perazzone

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Antwerp

Currently based in Belgium and Switzerland, Stephanie is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp on a SNSF-funded project on police work in Kinshasa. An expert in African politics and, in particular, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), her work has focused on linking the anthropology and the politics of the postcolonial state in urban settings. Perazzone is also developing a research agenda that seeks to introduce the notion of the “ordinary” as a critique of international relations and which explores the contributions of original and ethical methods while conducting fieldwork. She has conducted extensive fieldwork across Africa and maintains deep roots in the DRC, where she spent her childhood. Beyond academia, Perazzone has also gained experience working for and with both local and international nongovernmental organizations.