Séverine Autesserre

Assistant Professor of Political Science

International Relations

Séverine Autesserre joined the faculty of Barnard College in July 2007. Prior to coming to Barnard, she was a postdoctoral associate and lecturer at Yale University where she conducted research on civil and international wars, international intervention, and African politics. Her teaching duties at Barnard include such courses as Aid, Violence, and Politics in Africa (Colloquium); Senior Research Seminar in International Relations; and Civil Wars and International Interventions in Africa. She also teaches a seminar on civil wars and peace settlements at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. She is affiliated with the Barnard's Africana studies program, Columbia's Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies, and Columbia's Institute of African Studies.

Dr. Autesserre’s current research project examines how everyday elements influence international peacebuilding interventions on the ground. She has conducted extensive fieldwork for this project between 2010 and 2012, with a primary case study on the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and comparative research in Burundi, Cyprus, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste. Findings from this project have appeared in Critique Internationale and African Affairs, and Dr. Autesserre is finalizing a book entitled Peacebuilders: An Ethnography of International Intervention (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2014).

Professor Autesserre's previous research project focused on local violence and international intervention in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she has traveled regularly since 2001. It culminated in the book The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press, 2010). The book won the 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order and the 2011 Chadwick Alger prize presented by the International Studies Association to the best book on international organizations and multilateralism. Research for this project has also appeared in Foreign Affairs, International Organization, the Review of African Political Economy, the African Studies Review, the African Security Review, the Revista de Relaciones Internationales, and the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs.

Professor Autesserre's work has been supported by two research awards from the United States Institute of Peace (2004-2005 and 2010-2012), two Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation research grants (2010 and 2011), a Presidential Research Award from Barnard (2010-2011), several grants from Columbia University (2010 – 2012), two Mellon Fellowships in Security and Humanitarian Action (2004-2006), and a Fulbright Fellowship (1999-2000). Her Ph.D. dissertation at New York University was nominated for the award for best dissertation for 2007 in the areas of in international relations, law, and politics. Her paper "Local Violence, National Peace? Post-war 'Settlement' in the Eastern D.R. Congo," was awarded the Graduate Student Paper Prize Award of the African Studies Association in 2006.

Professor Autesserre has extensive experience working with international humanitarian and development agencies in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua, India, and the United States. She has worked for organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and Doctors of the World.

Selected Awards & Honors:

The 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for the ideas set forth in her book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding.

Selected Publications:

“Dangerous Tales - Dominant Narratives on the Congo and their Unintended Consequences,” African Affairs, 111 (443), pp. 202-222, Spring 2012

“Construire la Paix : Conceptions Collectives de son Etablissement, de son Maintien et de sa Consolidation,” Critique Internationale, 51, pp. 153-167,  2011

The Trouble With the Congo. Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

"Hobbes and the Congo—Frames, Local Violence, and International Intervention (2003-2006)," International Organization (2009).

"Conceptualiser les Conflits Locaux: Violence Locale et Intervention Internationale au Cours de la Transition Congolaise (2003-2007),"L'Afrique des Grands Lacs: Annuaire 2007-2008 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2008).

"The Trouble with the Congo—How Local Conflicts Fuel Regional Violence," Foreign Affairs (May-June 2008).

"D. R. Congo: Explaining Peace-building Failures, 2003-2006," Review of African Political Economy 34 (September 2007).

"Local Violence, National Peace? Post-war 'Settlement' in the Eastern D.R. Congo," African Studies Review 49 (December 2006).

"The United States' 'Humanitarian Diplomacy' in South Sudan," Journal of Humanitarian Affairs (January 2002). www.jha.ac


Updated 18 October 2012 by Nell Dillon-Ermers.



Academic Focus: 

Peacekeeping and peacebuilding
African politics
International relations
Politics of humanitarian and development aid


Selected syllabi are on-line.

  • POLS V 3604 Civil Wars and International Interventions in Africa
    (Cross-listed by the Africana Studies Program, the Human Rights Program, and the Race & Ethnic Studies Program; included in the Columbia College Global Core)
  • POLS BC 3761 Senior Research Seminar in International Relations
  • POLS BC 3810 Colloquium on Aid, Politics and Violence in Africa
    (Cross-listed by the Africana Studies and the Human Rights Programs)
  • POLS G 8823 Debates on International Peace Interventions
    (Graduate-level seminar at Columbia University)
  • INAF U8869 Civil Wars & Peace Settlements
    (Graduate-level seminar at SIPA)

Tel 212.854.4877
Fax 212.854.3024

419 Lehman Hall

Office Hours: 

Spring 2014:

Wednesdays, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

To avoid having to wait during the walk-in office hours listed in the PDFs, please make an appointment.


Ph.D., New York University

M.A., Columbia University

M.A., Sciences-Po, France

B.A., Sorbonne University

Related Web Sites: 

In the News

Political science professor receives African Politics Conference Group Award and provides commentary for international media.


Political science professor interviewed by Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development.

Political science professor urges support of local grassroots efforts to establish peace.