"Shouldn't you be teaching me?" state mimicry in the Congo


Drawing from alternative views on (African) statehood via the notion of "mimicry" in [post]colonial settings, this article investigates the transformational dynamics of routinized micro-interactions between street-level bureaucrats and ordinary citizens in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Goma. It is argued that while conventional analyses of "state weakness" may construe the Congolese state as needing better imitation of the western registers of modernity, ethnographic and historical explorations of state-society interactions in the Congo reveal a different story. In particular, it will be shown that the various forms of "state-mimicry" at work in the Congo result in fact—via the "state effect"—in a local "hyperreality" of the Congolese state in which "copy" and "model" entertain an ambivalent but constitutive relationship.