Friday, August 10, 2012


How to thank the many Congolese for the information they have given me over the last four years so I could learn about their lives, and write a dissertation? How to thank these people with whom I have lived with -- sometimes for months -- while conducting fieldwork in Eastern Congo?

For a lab-in-the-field experiment in which we hope to learn about migrant-native networks (more here) pictures were taken of 420 villagers -- sixteen in six villages and eighteen in eighteen other villagers. These people were randomly selected in (on their turn) randomly selected villages, and are thus the literally representative of the area we work in Eastern Congo. In upcoming days I plan to upload a selection of one hundred of these pictures on my website.

I was inspired to do this by an exhibition Raul -- close friend and way too smart co-author and colleague -- has at the M55 Art Gallery in New York from July 25th to August 11th 2012. During his trips to Congo he makes beautiful pictures, which include the ones he will show at the exhibition (see here). For some other beautiful pictures please have a look here. I am unfortunately in the Netherlands and can't make it to the exhibition, but I strongly recommend going -- tomorrow is the last day.

Before posting the four pictures below (and the other 96 still to come) I thought carefully whether this could be done at all -- the villagers did not give me permission to present them publicly. But... First, I do not connect (sensative) information to these pictures. There is also no way somebody can find these people back in Congo -- I will not tell you their names, or in which villages I collected my data. Secondly, the reason to do this is to say thanks to these villagers, and by doing so provide a glance into their extraordinary lives; something I think is very important people should learn about. I had the honor and pleasure to live closely with these people for an extended period of time, and I hope this is a good way to share these experiences. Finally, although I didn't ask them for permission I have spent much time with many of them and know they would welcome this. If you disagree though and have good reasons, let me know.

Thus, in upcoming days I plan to show a selection of one hundred of the 420 pictures on my website under the title:


Not only are the people in these pictures beautiful, their eyes speak. Some show the worry and hardship the Congolese go through in their daily lives. But for others the eyes also speak of the extraordinary warmth and joy I found among many of them. Hereby a small preview:

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