Marjoke Oosterom

Marjoke Oosterom - Research Fellow

Power and Popular Politics; Conflict and Violence


Erin Lewis

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Marjoke Oosterom is a Research Fellow in the Power and Popular Research Cluster at IDS. She holds a PhD from IDS and has a background in comparative politics and development studies. Her research concentrates on how experiences of violence and conflict affect forms of agency, citizenship, and everyday politics and governance. Marjoke has developed specific expertise on how young people participate in politics through formal and informal channels and how they respond to insecurity and violence in non-violent ways. Apart from research, she has been involved in advisory services for policy makers and international NGOs working on democratic governance, citizen participation, and youth and peacebuilding.

After Marjoke finished her PhD on how citizenship and identity had evolved in post-conflict northern Uganda, she continued focusing her research on the effects of different forms of violence on citizenship and agency. Her research asks how experiences of violence shape people's agency to engage with the state and other political actors and in forms of collective action. She has also looked at citizenship and agency among internally displaced persons (IDPs) in conflict settings and their agency in relation to humanitarian actors. Violent settings are often unfavourable to citizen action and the political space for civil society is limited. This research will help to find pathways to peace and democracy by trying to understand what kind of institutions and forms of leadership are legitimate in the eyes of people and by learning from people's everyday negotiations with them.

As a member of the Youth Research group at IDS, Marjoke has developed research projects on youth, citizenship and politics, which contributes to debates on the role of young men and women in post-conflict environments. While popular assumptions hold that especially unemployed and 'idle' youth are at risk of participating in violence, the majority of young people develop non-violent strategies to cope with adversity and are active citizens. Her current research on youth extends to the politics of employment and informal labour and how youth navigate the formal and informal rules and intermediaries that govern local economies.

Marjoke uses qualitative approaches and likes to use participatory, visual methods like Photo Voice. She has facilitated youth-led research, and in her research with young people she often uses creative methods such as storytelling, arts and theatre. Previous research projects include studies on gender and masculinities in South Sudan, youth experiences of citizenship in Zimbabwe, and on everyday forms of peacebuilding and politics by youth in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Myanmar.

Many of her research projects are conducted in collaboration with civil society actors, designed to inform their programmes and strategies. For instance, the project 'Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency' in South Sudan was carried out in partnership with Voice for Change to inform their activities related to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 UNSCR 2250 on Women, Peace and Security; also a study for Plan International UK helped to inform advocacy regarding UNSCR 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. Aware of their organisational realities and the political environment in which they operate she uses applied research strategies, techniques for learning and reflection and project outputs often include multimedia outputs that enhance research uptake and impact. See for instance the documentary 'The Governance Gap' on citizenship in the Acholi region, post-conflict northern Uganda.

With other colleagues she has been involved in various studies and training for donors and civil society organisations, such as workshops in power analysis, studies on the political space for CSOs in conflict-affected and transitional countries, and the monitoring and evaluation of programmes in support of democratic governance.

For PhD applicants

Marjoke welcomes PhD applications on the following topics:

Effects of violence and violent conflict on citizenship, agency, and governance (including in non-conventional conflict settings like informal urban settlements and in post-conflict settings).

Youth, peacebuilding, security, the role of young people in post-conflict settings, including their economic and political agency.

Gender and conflict.

The goal of the Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa study is to strengthen and deepen knowledge of: the employment dynamics of rural young people, and the relationships between these dynamics and welfare; and the socially and spatially differentiated perspectives of rural young people on work, employment and livelihoods. Research is taking place in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.

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This Collaboration with the Quality Assurance (QA) Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is now in its second phase, running until December 2018. The aim of the program is to improve the quality and effectiveness of SDC processes and operations focused on poverty.

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This project aims to make sense of the development impacts of the closing of civil society space.

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This project aims to build an evidence base that maps the role young people – particularly young women – have played in contributing to processes that sought to or did address fragility as well as examine gaps and challenges with the ultimate aim of increasing the voice and participation of young people around the world.

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The Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency (PVCA) project is an action research project designed by researchers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and carried out with a number of institutional partners.

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This collaboration between IDS and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) aims to bring appropriate participatory methods into quality assurance within SDC. It will also bring new levels of rigour to the principles of participation, poverty orientation and empowerment in the work of SDC and its partners.

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This research theme, under the Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) Research Programme, is concerned with the following question: how can stable and inclusive political settlements (among elites) and a just social contract (between elites and different social groups) emerge that are based on accountable and responsive institutions?

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What Does Closing Civic Space Mean for Development? A Literature Review and Proposed Conceptual Framework

IDS Working Paper 515 (2018)

What does closing civic space mean for development? Aid donors are concerned about the implications of restrictions on civil society for their partners and programmes, but to date there has been little clarity about what this means for development. More details


Energy Protests in Fragile Settings: The Unruly Politics of Provisions in Egypt, Myanmar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, 2007–2017

IDS Working Paper 513 (2018)

How do popular protests about the basics of everyday life, specifically about energy, come about in settings where political authority is fragmented and conflict and repression common? How do state and political actors respond to protests which disrupt social and economic life, and undermine public authority? To what extent do such mass protests, often justified as inherently moral struggles over the basics of everyday life, empower the powerless or hold the powerful to account in such political settings? And how do external actors shape these events? More details


Youth Engagement in the Realm of Local Governance: Opportunities for Peace?

IDS Working Paper 508 (2018)

An interest in young people has gained significant traction in both policy and academic circles over the past ten years, partly informed by the correlations between ‘youth bulges’ and large numbers of unemployed youth and a country’s instability. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Gendered (in)security in South Sudan: masculinities and hybrid governance in Imatong state

Peacebuilding (2017)

Since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 ended the civil war between north and south Sudan, many citizens of what is now South Sudan have increasingly felt left behind by their government. More details


Failing Young People? Addressing the Supply-side Bias and Individualisation in Youth Employment Programming

IDS Evidence Report 216 (2017)

International development actors increasingly focus on youth employment as a key development challenge. More details

New Matasa Fellows to make youth employment in Africa their priority

19 Feb 2018
By Marjoke Oosterom, Seife Ayele, Dominic Glover

Private sector is key for inclusive growth and decent jobs in Africa

07 Nov 2017
By Seife Ayele, Dominic Glover, Samir Khan, Marjoke Oosterom

BLOG: What next for young Zimbabweans?

19 Dec 2013
By Marjoke Oosterom

Thematic Expertise:
Participatory methodologies; Politics and Power; Youth Employment and Politics.

Related Programmes and Centres:
Policy Anticipation Response and Evaluation.

Geographic Expertise:
Sub Saharan Africa; Mongolia; South Sudan; Uganda; Zimbabwe.