Carla Suarez

Study program:
Killam Postdoctoral Fellow
Current affiliation:
University of British Columbia

She is interested in civilian agency under rebel governance, with a focus on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Social Order Under Rebel Governance Regimes: Voices from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Carla’s dissertation examines the survival strategies used by individuals and communities that are under rebel governance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Through a comparative analysis of two communities, she will examine if and how social positionality (age, gender and class) influenced individual’s experiences, both in terms of how they were targeted by and respond to violence under these governing structures. In doing so, Carla will examine the following main research questions: (1) What types of norms and rules did rebel groups introduce in the communities that they previously governed? (2)How did individuals and communities respond to these governance regimes? (3) How did community members’ daily relations and interactions with rebel governance differ according to their social positionality (e.g. gender, age and class) within the two research sites? The overall aim of her research is to build systematic knowledge of how, when and what strategies work for civilian self-protection, which may better inform early warning systems in other communities at risk. In addition to being supported by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, Carla’s dissertation is funded by the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canadian Graduate Scholarship.

Carla Suarez is completing her doctorate in Political Science at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the micro-foundations of violence during and after armed conflict, with a regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. She is especially interested in the types of relationships and interactions that emerge between rebel groups and civilians in areas marked by limited statehood. Drawing on eight months of field research, her dissertation examines civilian’s narratives and experiences in the context of rebel governance in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Her work has been published in Stability: International Journal of Security & Development and Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses. Her work is informed by over 10 years of research, policy and advocacy experience with grassroots organizations in Northern Uganda, South Africa, South Sudan, Guatemala and Peru. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies she worked with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Government of Canada, specifically with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and Public Safety Canada.

Experience as a Trudeau Scholar

The Trudeau Scholarship has been the most inspiring and rewarding experience of my doctoral studies. I became deeply immersed in the Foundation’s inter-disciplinary and inter-generational community of scholars and practitioner, which often exposed me to innovative ways of thinking. Through these interactions, I was able to critically reflect on the type of scholar I wanted to become. I was extremely fortunate to travel throughout Canada, visiting cities such as Charlottetown, NS, Montebello, QC, and Osoyoos, BC, to attend the Foundation’s annual events, where I often learned about local concerns and issues that are often not adequately covered and/or discussed in the national agenda. Many of these fell outside my own scope of research, but they helped to broaden my thinking and forced me to ask different questions about the implications of my scholarship. Through its financial support, I was also able to conduct long-term research in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for my doctoral dissertation. The multiple trips I took to the eastern DRC gave me the opportunity to develop a nuanced theoretical and methodological approach suitable for my research, while it also allowed me to strategically position my work amid pressing academic and policy debates. I was also able to participate in academic conferences and workshops across the world, developing a network of scholars, practitioners and policy-makers working in the same areas of research. I remain extremely humble and grateful for my experience as a Trudeau Scholar..

  • February 21, 2018
    Congratulations to 2012 Foundation scholar Carla Suarez, who joins 2013 scholar Sara Pavan as one of five 2017 Killam postdoctoral fellows. Carla joined the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs in January 2018 and examines the role of social ties in influencing combatants to demobilize and return to their communities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.