Tanja Hendriks

Governance and Human Security. The state and everyday practices of governing in Malawi.

Having a background in anthropology, international development studies and African Studies, I became interested in the role of the state during my fieldwork in the aftermath of the devastating floods that hit Malawi in 2015. My PhD project on governance and human security therefore aims to explore the instantiation of the Malawi state ethnographically by focusing on everyday practices of governing in disaster relief interventions in Malawi.

States are commonly considered responsible for protecting their citizens from harm and safeguarding their livelihoods. Yet this is no easy task for Malawi; a donor-dependent and disaster prone country with limited state capacity. When disaster strikes, the Malawi state thus engages in complex collaborations with donors, non-governmental organizations, global humanitarian aid institutions, volunteers and (affected) citizens to carry out relief interventions. I will be exploring these collaborations with a focus on the everyday practices of civil servants working in the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA).

My research on governance and human security focuses on the everyday practices of governing in disaster relief interventions in Malawi and the ways in which these practices instantiate the postcolonial, aid-dependent state. These pictures show the first day of the floods caused by Cyclone Idai in early March 2019. People are taking selfies while standing on the flooded highway and the district officer for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs is calling frantically with his superiors in the capital to update them on the emergency situation and request for assistance to begin the disaster response.