Houston Shearon

Criminality and Justice in Eastern Congo (working title)

Supervisors: Dr. Paul Jackson, Dr. Danielle Beswick 

My research is still in the early phases. The working version of my research question is: "How do individuals living in eastern DR Congo navigate judicial service networks?"

The Democratic Republic of Congo is frequently described as a land of chaos. Whether the DRC is labeled the "Heart of Darkness", "rape capital of the world", or a "failed state" all these references reflect a chaotic country. Years of regional war, civil wars, and numerous rebellions, the state institutions of the DRC remain stubbornly resilient. Despite the resilience of these government institutions, many parallel service providers developed over the years due to informal privatization of government services, corruption, growth of active NGOs, and contested state authority in many regions of the DRC. The result is in a country with an improvised network of service providers in many sectors traditionally understood to be the function of the state. This doctoral research focuses on understanding how individuals use dispute resolution mechanisms available to them (courts, chiefs, religious organizations, 'big-men', NGOs, family to family negotiations, no options, etc) to leverage the most beneficial outcome for themselves. Two schools of thought influencing this research are the ‘politics of what works’ and hybrid state theories.

The methodology is currently being developed.


I started out as a theology major with a keen interest on belief systems. After years of traveling and researching in Uganda, Sudan, DRC, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania I became more interested in development studies and eventually began focusing on conflict related studies. I have lived/worked with development organizations for the past 3 years in Uganda & DRC.

Currently live in the US with my wife and an exceptional toddler.


  • BS – Theology – Abilene Christian University 2003
  • MA – Theology – Abilene Christian University 2006
  • MSc – International Development – University of Birmingham 2007  

Research interests

  • Great Lakes Region
  • Conflict/Post-conflict Reconstruction
  • Traditional Belief Systems