CCDP Research Seminar

Rethinking Rebel Rule: The Legacy of Uganda's Resistance Councils

Eliza Urwin (PhD Candidate from the IR/PS Department) and Rebecca Tapscott (Ambizione Research Fellow and Lecturer, Democracy Centre)
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This event is part of the CCDP's Research Seminar Series hosted by Janine Bressmer (Doc.CH Fellow at the CCDP).

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Seminar Description

Recent innovations in scholarship on “rebel governance” has illustrated how rebels mirror many state-like forms and functions. Such insights are now mainstream, covering the pages of popular newspapers like the New York Times and the Financial Times. Less attention has been paid, however, to another key insight of this scholarship: that rebel orders are characterized by contradiction. From Myanmar to Afghanistan, scholars have traced how rebel orders are simultaneously inclusive yet exclusive, arbitrary yet law abiding, fragile yet resilient. We suggest that these contradictions reflect the particular need of rebel rulers to survive wartime contexts. Drawing on the case of Uganda’s National Resistance Movement, we elaborate this argument and propose a new framework to study rebel orders that illustrates how different and potentially contradictory elements of rule relate to one another, and how these can be joined to form a structure with embedded and long-lasting rigidities and flexibilities.


About the speakers

Rebecca Tapscott is an Ambizione Research Fellow at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and a visiting fellow at the University of Edinburgh's Politics and International Relations Department as well as at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at the London School of Economics. Her research interests include political violence, security, and non-democratic regimes; gender—particularly masculinities—and citizenship; international development; and research ethics governance. She is the author of "Arbitrary States: Social control and modern authoritarianism in Museveni's Uganda" (forthcoming with Oxford University Press). Rebecca's Ambizione project examines the transnational diffusion of ethics research regulations and the political consequences of this emergent regulatory framework for social sciences research, especially in non-democratic contexts. Rebecca also teaches at IHEID in the Power, Conflict, and Development Track. Rebecca holds a PhD from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She is the recipient of the Alfred Rubin Prize from the Fletcher School and the International Studies Association’s Carl Beck award.

Eliza is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, where her research focuses on processes of statehood in spaces of institutional and political multiplicity, where authority is contested.  She also explores participatory research methods, in particular focusing on the measurement of subjective, difficult-to-measure concepts. Since 2017, she has worked as a researcher with Everyday Peace Indicators carrying out research and developing indicators in Colombia, Tunisia and Afghanistan. From 2013 to 2017 Eliza lived in Afghanistan, working as a Senior Program Officer for the United States Institute of Peace. There, she managed a portfolio of peace and conflict research and programming, piloting projects and exploring research methods for evaluating program effectiveness. Eliza holds an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Paris, and a B.A. from Concordia University in Montreal and the American University in Cairo.


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