Considering the scale of violence that has accompanied the crisis in eastern Congo, the avalanche of academic writings on the subject is hardly surprising. Whether it helps us better understand the region's tortured history is a matter of opinion. This critical article grapples with the contributions of the recent literature on what has been described as the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. The aim, in brief, is to reflect on the historical context of the crisis, examine its relation to the politics of neighboring states, identify and assess the theoretical vantage points from which it has been approached, and, in conclusion, sketch out promising new directions for further research by social scientists. A unifying question that runs throughout the recent literature on the eastern Congo is how might a functioning state be restored or how might civil society organizations serve as alternatives to such a state – but there is little unanimity in the answers.
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