Carla Suarez

Study program:
Ph.D. Political Science
Current affiliation:
Dalhousie University

She is interested in civilian agency under rebel governance, with a focus on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Social Order Under Rebel Governance Regimes: Voices from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Carla’s dissertation examines the survival strategies used by individuals and communities that are under rebel governance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Through a comparative analysis of two communities, she will examine if and how social positionality (age, gender and class) influenced individual’s experiences, both in terms of how they were targeted by and respond to violence under these governing structures. In doing so, Carla will examine the following main research questions: (1) What types of norms and rules did rebel groups introduce in the communities that they previously governed? (2)How did individuals and communities respond to these governance regimes? (3) How did community members’ daily relations and interactions with rebel governance differ according to their social positionality (e.g. gender, age and class) within the two research sites? The overall aim of her research is to build systematic knowledge of how, when and what strategies work for civilian self-protection, which may better inform early warning systems in other communities at risk. In addition to being supported by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, Carla’s dissertation is funded by the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canadian Graduate Scholarship.

Born and raised in Lima, Peru during the height of political violence, Carla Suarez developed a fervent interest and commitment to human rights. Many of her early childhood memories were shaped by car bombs, electrical blackouts, and kidnappings; yet, it was the courageous forms of resistance and activism by the campesino communities that are most influential in her work.

After completing her BA in political science at the University of British Columbia (2004), Carla co-directed a research project examining the security threats faced by internally displaced youth in northern Uganda. This experience transformed Carla's thinking and approaches towards action-oriented research. She witnessed how youth's strategies - although most effective at navigating violence - remained at the margins of humanitarian policies. Since then, her goal has been to document and advocate for local-level initiatives developed by community members during and after mass violence, with the belief that they should play a larger role in national and international policies.

In 2007, Carla pursued her MA in political science at Dalhousie University. Her thesis examined the tensions among the multi-level (local, national, and international) approaches towards justice and reconciliation. Following this, Carla received a research award from the International Development Research Centre to carry out a comparative investigation focusing on the transitional justice processes among indigenous communities in Guatemala and Peru. As a recipient of the Aga Khan Foundation Research Fellowship Award, Carla also spent a year working for the CIVICUS in Johannesburg, South Africa. Carla's policy experience has been with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Public Safety, and the United Nations Association of Canada.

Carla returned to Dalhousie University for her doctoral work in political science in 2010. Drawing upon critical and feminist theories, she specializes in humanitarianism, transitional justice, and social repair. Her work has been showcased by Radio Canada and the Chronicle Herald. As a doctoral fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, Carla has co-organized several public dialogue and engagement events under the centre’s Global Security Program. She was also chair of the 6th Annual Dalhousie Graduate Symposium, which resulted in the edited collection Security & Conflict: Evolving Theory and Practice.

  • November 25, 2012
    Passionate about their opinions and ideas, the Trudeau scholars are often writing texts published in different media. Several scholars have seen their comments published on the Web, while others have had their work featured as articles.
  • October 17, 2012
    Four members of the Trudeau community have recently been interviewed by various media outlets. 2012 Trudeau scholars Carla Suarez and Michael Pal, 2010 Visiting Trudeau fellow Steven Loft, and 2004 Trudeau scholar Robert Huish have discussed their current projects or subjects related to their research.