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Studying ‘the state’ in Bukavu: A system, an idea, and a process

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This article studies criminal justice in the conflict-affected east of the DR Congo, showing that in cases involving serious injury or violent death, people expect the involvement of the state’s justice system despite their doubts about its functioning. The paper uses an ethnographic approach to study how the state, in a context of fragility becomes visible to people in the particular domain of criminal justice. The data show that Congolese justice seekers hardly expect “real legal certainty,” but instead look for outcomes that come closest to their emic ideas about what is just and what is right. To access state justice, it is widely held necessary to have either money or connections with more powerful people. For those without such connections, resort to non-state justice, including popular justice, can be a viable alternative. The empirical data illustrate how a relational approach to the state can help in understanding people’s experiences with and perceptions about the state and their reasons for resorting to state or non-state criminal justice provision. It thereby sheds light on how expectations about access to state justice and a lack of real legal certainty shape the existence of legal pluralism.
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Since the 1960s, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has implemented an extensive governance project in Lebanon that is often regarded as contributing to the weakness of the Lebanese state. Challenging such zero-sum logic, this article explores the institutional interdependencies between the PLO and the Lebanese state and their different yet mutual interests in governance coordination. It conceptualises the relations between the PLO and the Lebanese state along a continuum of mediated stateness and thereby contributes to both the operationalisation of the notion of the mediated state and our understanding of the diverse empirical manifestations of the PLO’s governance in Lebanon.
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