Winner of 2024 Conflict Research Society Book of the Year Prize

The Conflict Research Society congratulates Peer Schouten on winning the 2024 Conflict Research Society Book of the Year Prize for his book titled Roadblock Politics: the origins of violence in Central Africa. Based on research in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), Peer Schouten maps more than a thousand of these roadblocks to show how communities, rebels, and state security forces forge resistance and power out of control over these narrow points of passage. In doing so, he develops a new lens through which to understand what drives state formation and conflict in the region, offering a radical alternative to explanations that foreground control over minerals, territory, or population as key drivers of Central Africa’s violent history.

The prize committee received over 50 nominations from conflict/peace researchers, institutions, practitioners, and publishers from around the world. The committee chose the winning title out of four short-listed books based on criteria such as how well the book demonstrates a significant contribution to conflict/peace studies, impact factor, methodological rigour, robustness, and credibility of the findings, the extent to which it is interdisciplinary, quality of writing, and presentation.

The jury was impressed with the way that Schouten unpacks the motif of the roadblock to explain much broader patterns of conflict and state building in Central Africa. According to one of the jury members: “Schouten takes a seemingly niche phenomenon and shows that it is absolutely not niche, but central in the production and renegotiation of power in countries where the administrative state is not strong.” The jury agreed that the fieldwork on which Schouten draws is outstanding, and illustrates his deep knowledge of the territories in which he works. He compellingly weaves in historical legacies with contemporary patterns of violence and competition for power, bridging conflict studies, development studies, and political economy. A well-written text, Shouten develops theories of power – based in roadblock politics – that travel well to other contexts and challenge conventional thinking about what we should focus our attention on in contexts of violence. Congratulations on an interesting book that shows us how something as simple as ’the roadblock’ has much broader implications for our understanding of violence, authority, and power, and how they manifest in unexpected ways.

This winner was elected out of a total of three finalists in the shortlist. These were excellent contenders for the prize and the judges also praised the excellent quality of research in all of the shortlisted books. Our congratulations are extended to the following running up shortlisted titles (in no particular order):

  • Maria Sosnowski. Redefining Ceasefires: Wartime Order and Statebuilding in Syria. Cambridge University Press.
  • Jason Stearns. The War that doesn’t say its Name: The Unending Conflict in the Congo. Princeton University Press.

Thank you also to the CRS Book Prize Judges – Julia Zulver, Isabel Phillips, Robert Nagel, Luke Abbs, Corinne Bara, and Allard Duursma (facilitator).

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