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Fellowship in Social Anthropology and African Studies - Dr Clara Devlieger

Emmanuel College & Centre of African Studies

Fellow in Social Anthropology and African Studies


I am originally from Belgium, where I completed a Licentiate degree in Germanic languages (English, Dutch) at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Because I wanted a more hands-on opportunity to study history and culture, I decided to change direction with a Masters in Anthropology at the Université catholique de Louvain. I moved to Cambridge for an MRes and  PhD in Social Anthropology, which I completed in 2017, both at Trinity College. 

My doctoral research focussed on the livelihood strategies of physically disabled adults who make a living thanks to unregulated practices of poverty alleviation in systems of organised begging and brokerage at the border between Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Brazzaville (Republic of Congo). Because of the controversial nature of their activities, I became particularly interested in how people judge who is ‘deserving’ of aid, which activities can be considered as ‘work’, and what gives a person social and economic value in a postcolonial metropolis like Kinshasa.

During my Fellowship in Anthropology and African Studies I intend to develop my thesis into a monograph while starting a new research project that will consider the bio-political dimensions of organised social welfare in Kinshasa. Exploring social outreach programmes as much as substantive redistribution projects, I will question how the promise of welfare can shape the social landscape of the city, as the classificatory label of ‘vulnerability’ becomes a qualification for a share of the country’s meagre resources.