Workshop The Margins of Insurgent Control: Spaces of Governance

On September 1st and 2nd, the CSPS will host an international workshop featuring anthropologists, ethnographers, rural sociologists, social geographers, social movement scholars to discuss the field of rebel governance, which has been most authoritatively defined as the “the set of actions insurgents engage in to regulate the social, political, and economic life of non-combatants during war.” The workshop is hosted by Francis O’Connor and Joost Jongerden.

Research on rebel governance has dramatically reinvigorated the study of armed conflicts through its increasing methodological diversity and broad range of case studies. Yet, it is arguably characterised by an over focus on the state-like qualities of these movements, seeking out institutionalised patterns of governance that overlook some of the subtleties of how rebel governance emerges and develops in the shadow of existing states and in cohort with other societal actors. This workshop will focus on the margins of the phenomenon, emphasising the social complexity inherent in practises of rebel governance shaped by pre-existing political and cultural ties, reciprocal social norms confronted by structures of state and insurgent violence in contexts of often dramatic social upheaval.

The workshop’s participants will focus on four issues: firstly, they will address the spatial margins, where insurgent presence is more fluid or inconsistent and there is no territorial control but where forms of governance are nevertheless implemented. Secondly, they will consider early phases of insurgent mobilisation where incipient forms of governance are tested and refined but marginal in salience. Thirdly, they will analyse governance provision by actors on the margins of insurgent movements themselves, looking at the role of affiliated but somewhat autonomous groupings like militias or associated social movements. Finally, they will also reflect on the complexity of overlapping realms of sovereignty between rebel movements and state institutions and forces.

In order to conceptually incorporate these issues into rebel governance research, there is a need to bridge the existing literature with other related approaches such as social geography, social anthropology, social movement studies and contentious politics. The participants will take the workshop an opportunity to reflect on how best (or indeed, if it is necessary) to incorporate these approaches into the study of rebel movements’ governance efforts.

The workshop will be structured around the following (non-exhaustive) number of ethical and methodological issues and key questions that could play a role in the further development of the field.

  • What are the real-world implications of this research agenda? What should we do to preclude the misuse of our research findings?
  • How does the power imbalance inherent to research conducted by western universities on mostly non-western societies affect the production of knowledge around rebel governance?
  • Can the rebel governance approach be used in the study of historical insurgencies? What are the limitations to archival research of poorly documented phenomena like rebel governance?
  • Considering the inconsistencies in data underpinning most cross-national datasets and Large-N studies of rebel governance, what role can quantitative research have in the field?
  • In light of data scarcity and conceptual vagueness, do spatial approaches simply further fragment the field into idiosyncratic case studies inhibiting any comparative research?

The CSPS is proud to welcome the following scholars to present their research:

Presenters and Paper Titles

  • José Antonio Gutiérrez Danton: Post-doctoral researcher at ULB and lecturer at Universidad Santo Tomás, Colombia
    Paper Title: Rebel governance and workers’ control: a matter of time.
  • Francisco Gutierrez Sanín: Universidad Nacional Colombia
    Paper Title: The role of politicians in counterinsurgent governance
  • Joost Jongerden: Wageningen University and Research
    Paper Title: Aga, Sheik and Municipality: Electoral Politics in the late 1970s in Batman
  • Isabel Käser: University of Berne and University of Hewler
    Paper Title: Mothers and Martyrs: The Struggle for Life and the Commemoration of Death in Maxmûr Camp
  • Zachariah Mampilly:  Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, CUNY
    Paper Title: A Tax Like Any Other? Rebel Taxes on Narcotics and War Time Economic Order.
  • Esther Marijnen; University of Wageningen
    Paper Title: Lakes as Rebellious Landscapes: From ‘Fishing Rebels’ to ‘Fishy State Officials’ in DR Congo
  • Juan Masullo Jiménez: University of Leiden
    Paper Title: The Political Legacies of Resistance: How Italian Local Communities keep Antifascist Attitudes Alive (Co-authored with Simone Cremaschi)
  • Francis O’Connor: Wageningen University and Research
    Paper Title: Routinised Insurgent Space: Spatial Dimensions of Insurgent-Civilian Relations and Support
  • Leonidas Oikonomakis: University of Crete
    Paper Title: Neither by all anthropologists nor by anthropologists only: ethnography in social and revolutionary movement research.
  • Gary Hussey: NUI Galway
    Paper Title: Spatial Anxieties: The spatialisation of representational violence in Derry city, 1920.
  • Sebastián Pantoja Barrios: University of Amsterdam
    Paper Title: Variation in subnational alliances between the state and citizens: New concepts and data on state presence from Colombia (co-authored with Abbey Steele)
  • Atreyee Sen: University of Copenhagen
    Paper Title: Torture and Laughter: Naxal insurgency, custodial violence, and inmate resistance in a women’s correctional facility in 1970s Calcutta
  • Abbey Steele: University of Amsterdam
    Paper Title: Legacies of rebel governance for political participation in Colombia. (Co-authored with Michael Weintraub)

Participants and Schedule
Although the workshop is a closed event, WUR colleagues and graduate students interested in attending some of the sessions are invited to directly contact


Thursday September 1st

09:30-10:30Welcome and IntroductionProf. Han Wiskerke (Head of RSO) & Francis O’Connor 
10:30-11:00Coffee and Refreshments  
11:00-12:30Panel 2: RG – Working and TaxationZachariah Mampilly & José Antonio Gutiérrez DantonLotje de Vries
13:30-15:15Panel 3: Vote Insurgent!Joost Jongerden & Abbey SteeleFrancis O’Connor
15:30-15:45Coffee and Refreshments  
15:45-17:15Panel 4: Space and Rebel Governance Francis O’Connor & Gary HusseyLeonidas Oikonomakis

Friday September 2nd

09:00-10:45Panel 5: Oblique Perspectives on RGEsther Marijnen, Juan Masullo  Jiménez & Sebastian Pantoja-BarriosGary Hussey
10:30 – 11: 00Coffee and Refreshments  
11:00 – 12:30Panel 6: Rebel Governance in the FieldLeonidas Oikonomakis & Isabel KäserJoost Jongerden
13:30-15:00  Panel 7: State Violence and rebel governanceFrancisco Gutiérrez-Sanín & Atreyee SenJosé Antonio Gutiérrez Danton,