Techniques of the River. Moments from field work in Tshopo Province, DR Congo

Justin Boende (anthropologie, Unikis), Peter Lambertz (anthropologie, ULB), Victor Yaaya (sociologie, Unikis), Lajoie Vutseme (anthropologie, Unikis) & Emmanuel Makoka (philosophie, Unikis)

In August 2023, the Kisangani-based research team consisting of Victor Yaaya (Sociology, Unikis), Justin Boende (Anthropology, Unikis), Lajoie Vutseme (Anthropology, Unikis), Emmanuel Makoka (Philosophy, Unikis) and Peter Lambertz (Anthropology, ULB), gathered and spread out to conduct four individual field missions in four different sites in the Tshopo Province of the DR Congo. The aim of the mission, funded and led by the ERC research project Banturivers, was to ethnographically document the techniques of fishing, pottery and canoe building practised at four different sites at this particular time of year. Of particular interest was the respective chaîne opératoire of each technique, including the materials, techniques, tools and social organisation that characterise the production and use of the various tools and techniques. During a mini-workshop upon our return to Kisangani, we compared and contrasted the data. In addition to patterns of continuity and repetition, we also found that there is playfulness, variation and innovation at work on the ground, depending on individual interests, creativity and the particular life trajectories of different actors. The following vignettes explore some of these ethnographic moments. They are intended to reflect the inductive nature of the ethnographic approach and at the same time add a reflexive dimension to the data generation by consciously positioning the researcher in the process.

(NB: The authors would like to thank Laurent Nieblas Ramirez and Liz Kujath of the Banturivers team for their corrections and suggestions regarding the correct use of French and English).

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