Environmental conflicts and reterritorialization

Anuarite Bashizi’s PhD research at Université Catholique de Louvain (defended in 2020) was carried out in close collaboration with CEGEMI. Her research sought to understand the relationship between modernisation, territory and people through the approach of political ecology.


The contradiction between the discourse of poverty alleviation (which emphasises the importance of mining for economic growth) and that of sustainable development (which emphasises environmental conservation) has not yet been resolved in practice in the DRC, despite the establishment of a conservationist norm since 2002 and its strengthening in 2018. This is what this thesis attempts to prove by analysing the consequences of industrial mining for the sustainability of other natural resources including agricultural land, water and forest. The ultimate goal is to understand how industrial mining deteriorates other natural resources or simply degrades the land and thereby produces human insecurity. The thesis therefore seeks to understand the relationship between modernisation, territory and people through the approach of political ecology, which, using methods from both social and environmental sciences, investigates how discourses of power produce environmental degradation and people’s suffering. This form of deterritorialisation linked to top-down policies often affects the poorest populations and thus gives rise to forms of resistance with a view to reterritorialisation. This consists of deconstructing the way in which the modern gaze disconnects resources from the territory at the local level and seeing how this affects the living and the non-living. This study of environmental conflicts in the DRC thus goes beyond the critique of ‘blood minerals’ and leads to a more general investigation of the ‘blood’, both red and green, shed by an extractive capitalism against which the conservationist norm has not stood. From this point of view, the thesis offers a contribution to the environmental dimension of the mining sector in the DRC by showing that the double necessity of environmental conservation and the improvement of people’s living conditions lead to questioning the conditions of possibility for thinking together about modernisation and human security. Thus, beyond presenting the close links between mining reform and environmental degradation (or deterritorialisation more broadly) as a critique of modernisation, the thesis asks the question of the modalities of a mining modernity that renders ‘secure’. The case of the DRC shows that this ‘securitisation’ can only be achieved through ecology and more specifically through environmental conservation. Finally, this research argues that a reterritorialisation that comes from below is needed for a dialogue between modernisation and conservation.