Severine Autesserre, Ph.D.

Barnard College - Columbia University

Country: United States (New York)

About Me:

I am an expert in war, peace, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and African politics. I currently work as a Professor of Political Science, specializing in international relations and African studies, at Barnard College, Columbia University (USA). I have written two award-winning books and a series of articles. My latest book, Peaceland: Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention (Cambridge University Press, 2014), examines how everyday practices, habits, and narratives influence the effectiveness of peacebuilding interventions on the ground. My previous book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press, 2010), focuses on local violence and international intervention in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am currently writing a new book—tentatively entitled On the Frontlines of Peace—that examines successful international contributions to local and bottom-up peacebuilding. Before becoming an academic, I worked for humanitarian and development agencies in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua and India. I hold a post-doctorate from Yale University (2007), a Ph.D. in political science from New York University (2006), and master’s degrees in international relations and political science from Columbia University (2000) and Sciences Po (France, 1999). Please click here for more details.

Research Interests


Conflict Processes & War


African Politics


Post-Conflict Peacebuilding


Countries of Interest

Congo, Democratic Republic of the (Zaire)


Books Written:

(2014) Peaceland, Cambridge University Press

Peaceland suggests a new explanation for why international peace interventions often fail to reach their full potential. Based on several years of ethnographic research in conflict zones around the world, it demonstrates that everyday elements – such as the expatriates’ social habits and usual approaches to understanding their areas of operation – strongly influence peacebuilding effectiveness. Individuals from all over the world and all walks of life share numerous practices, habits, and narratives when they serve as interveners in conflict zones. These common attitudes and actions enable foreign peacebuilders to function in the field, but they also result in unintended consequences that thwart international efforts. Certain expatriates follow alternative modes of thinking and doing, often with notable results, but they remain in the minority. Through an in-depth analysis of the interveners’ everyday life and work, this book proposes innovative ways to better help host populations build a sustainable peace.

(2010) The Trouble with the Congo, Cambridge University Press

The Trouble with the Congo suggests a new explanation for international peacebuilding failures in civil wars. Drawing from more than 330 interviews and a year and a half of field research, it develops a case study of the international intervention during the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s unsuccessful transition from war to peace and democracy (2003–2006). Grassroots rivalries over land, resources, and political power motivated widespread violence. However, a dominant peacebuilding culture shaped the intervention strategy in a way that precluded action on local conflicts, ultimately dooming the international efforts to end the deadliest conflict since World War II. Most international actors interpreted continued fighting as the consequence of national and regional tensions alone, and diplomats and United Nations staff viewed intervention at the macro levels as their only legitimate responsibility. The dominant culture constructed local peacebuilding as such an unimportant, unfamiliar, and unmanageable task that neither shocking events nor resistance from certain individuals could convince international actors to reevaluate their understanding of violence and intervention. Through this in-depth analysis, The Trouble with the Congo proposes innovative ways to address civil wars in Africa and beyond.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2017) PBS, BBC, France 24, RFI, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, The New York Times, Le Monde, Vice, The Guardian, The Washington Post, etc

Please see for TV and Radio appearances, newspaper quotes, Op Ed, Blog posts, and other media contributions.