Séverine Autesserre

Séverine Autesserre

Ann Whitney Olin Professor & Chair of Political Science


Africana Studies, Human Rights, Political Science


Milstein 1101



International Relations

Séverine Autesserre is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor and Chair of Political Science, specializing in international relations and African studies, at Barnard College, Columbia University. She works on civil wars, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid, and she chairs the political science department.

Professor Autesserre's latest book, The Frontlines of Peace: The Insider’s Guide to Changing the World, examines what works in building peace after mass violence. It draws on fieldwork in twelve different conflict zones, including Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somaliland, and was released in English by Oxford University Press (2021), in French by the Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme (2023), and in Japanese by Kashiwa Shobo (2023). Her 2014 article in International Peacekeeping develops some of the early ideas for this project. Her 2017 article in the International Studies Review, my Op-Eds in the Washington Post (here and here and here), and her Foreign Affairs pieces (here and here and here) present her preliminary findings. Research for this project has been funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and the Folke Bernadotte Academy.

Her previous project focused on the everyday elements that influence peacebuilding interventions on the ground. It included extensive fieldwork in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and briefer comparative research in Burundi, Cyprus, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste. The book based on this research, Peaceland: Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention, was released in English by Cambridge University Press (2014) and in Spanish by Edicions Bellaterra (2018). It won the 2016 Best Book of the Year Award and the 2015 Yale H. Ferguson Award from the International Studies Association as well as honorable mentions for two other book prizes (the 2015 Chadwick Alger Prize from the International Studies Association and the 2014 African Argument Book of the Year). Findings from this project have also appeared in Critique Internationale and African Affairs (the latter piece won the 2012 Best Article award from the African Politics Conference Group).

Her earlier research project focused on local violence and international intervention in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Dr. Autesserre has travelled regularly since 2001. Her fieldwork and analysis culminated in The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding, published by Cambridge University Press in 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, International Peacekeeping, the Revista de Relaciones Internationales, and the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs. It is the topic of a recent TED Talk with more than 815,000 views.

In 2021, Professor Autesserre was named a Knight of the Order of Academic Palms (Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques) by the French Government—a historical knighthood for French academic, cultural, and educational figures. That same year, Autesserre was awarded the Victor Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace from the American Public Health Association in recognition of her contributions to preventing war and promoting international peace

Her work has also won numerous other prizes and fellowships, including the Emerging Scholar Award from the International Studies Association’s International Security Studies Section (2021), the Special Prize of the Jury from the French Red Cross Fund (2017), 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), two Presidential Research Awards from Barnard College (2010 and 2021), several grants from Columbia University (2010 – 2013), two Mellon Fellowships in Security and Humanitarian Action (2004-2006), the 2006 Best Graduate Student Paper award from the African Studies Association, and a Fulbright Fellowship (1999-2000).

Professor Autesserre teaches undergraduate classes such as "Civil Wars and International Interventions in Africa," "Building Peace," and "Aid, Violence, and Politics in Africa." She also regularly offers two SIPA courses ("Civil Wars and Peace Settlements" and "Peacebuilding After Mass Violence") and a doctoral seminar entitled "Debates on International Peace Interventions." In 2021, Autesserre received the Emily Gregory Award, Barnard College's only student-nominated award for excellence in teaching

Before becoming an academic, Dr. Autesserre worked for humanitarian organizations (including Doctors Without Borders and Doctors of the World) and development agencies in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua, and India. She holds a post-doctorate from Yale University (2007), a Ph.D. in political science from New York University (2006), and master’s degrees in international relations and political science from Columbia University (2000) and Sciences Po (France, 1999).

  • Ph.D., New York University
  • M.A., Columbia University
  • M.A., Sciences-Po, France
  • B.A., Sorbonne University, France

  • Peacekeeping and peacebuilding
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • International relations
  • Politics of humanitarian and development aid

  • POLS BC 3765 Faculty-Student Research
  • POLS BC 3810 Colloquium on Building Peace
    • (Cross-listed by the Human Rights Programs)
  • POLS V 3604 War, Peace, and International Interventions in Africa
    • (Cross-listed by the Africana Studies Program, the Human Rights Program, and the Race & Ethnic Studies Program)
  • 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)
  • INAF U6549 Peacebuilding After Mass Violence
    • (Graduate-level seminar at SIPA)

  • 2024 Ann Whitney Olin Foundation Chair, Barnard College
  • 2021 Victor Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace, American Public Health Association
  • 2021 Emily Gregory Award, Barnard College (for excellence in teaching)
  • Knight of the Order of Academic Palm (Chevalière dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques), French state decoration, 2021
  • 2020 Emerging Scholar Award, International Studies Association’s International Security Studies Section
  • 2017 Prix Special du Jury (Special Prize of the Jury), Fonds Croix-Rouge (French Red Cross Fund), awarded to "an original trajectory and the quality of the research"
  • 2016 International Studies Association's Best Book of the Year Award (for book “Peaceland”)
  • 2015 International Studies Association's Yale H. Ferguson Award (for book “Peaceland”)
  • 2015 Honorable mention, International Studies Association’s Chadwick Alger Award for best book on international organizations and multilateralism (for book “Peaceland”)
  • 2014 Honorable mention, African Arguments’ Best Book of the Year (for book “Peaceland”)
  • 2013 African Politics Conference Group’s Best Article Award (for article “Dangerous Tales”)
  • 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order (for book “The Trouble with the Congo”)
  • 2011 International Studies Association’s Chadwick Alger Award for best book on international organizations and multilateralism (for book “The Trouble with the Congo”)
  • 2006 Graduate Student Paper Prize Award, African Studies Association (for article “Local Violence, National Peace”)


The Frontlines of Peace: An Insider's Guide to Changing the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. https://severineautesserre.com/sa_book/the-frontlines-of-peace/

Peaceland: Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention. Problems of International Politics series. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. https://severineautesserre.com/sa_book/peaceland/

The Trouble With the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding. Cambridge Studies in International Relations series. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. https://severineautesserre.com/sa_book/the-trouble-with-the-congo/

“International Peacebuilding and Local Success: Assumptions and Effectiveness,” International Studies Review 19 (1), pp. 114-132, 2017. https://academic.oup.com//isr/article/19/1/114/2980418/International-Pea...

“The Responsibility to Protect in Congo: The Failure of Grassroots Prevention,” International Peacekeeping 23 (1), pp., 29-51, 2016. http://www.severineautesserre.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/IPArtCongo.pdf. (Reprinted in Brett O’Bannon. Reassessing the Responsibility to Protect: Conceptual and Operational Challenges, New York: Routledge, pp. 93-113, 2016)

“Going Micro: Emerging and Future Peacekeeping Research,” International Peacekeeping 21 (4), pp. 492-500, Fall 2014. http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:187716

 “Dangerous Tales - Dominant Narratives on the Congo and their Unintended Consequences,” African Affairs, 111 (443), pp. 202-222, Spring 2012. http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:187713

“Construire la Paix : Conceptions Collectives de son Etablissement, de son Maintien et de sa Consolidation,” Critique Internationale, 51, pp. 153-167,  2011. http://www.cairn.info/article.php?ID_ARTICLE=CRII_051_0153&DocId=69046&h.... Translated by N. Ragaru (Original English version: “Constructing Peace: Collective Understandings of Peace, Peacemaking, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding,” http://www.ceri-sciences-po.org/publica/critique/51/art_sa.pdf)

“Hobbes and the Congo – Frames, Local Violence, and International Intervention in the Congo,” International Organization, 63, pp. 249-280, 2009. http://www.severineautesserre.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/IOSev.pdf. (Reprinted in Erica Chenoweth (ed.), Political Violence, Sage Library of International Relations, Sage Publications, 2014 / Spanish translation “Hobbes y el Congo: Marcos, Violencia Local e Intervención Internacional,” Revista de Relaciones Internationales, 16, pp. 97-134, 2011. http://www.severineautesserre.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/IOspa.pdf)

“D.R. Congo: Explaining Peace Building Failures, 2003 – 2006,” Review of African Political Economy, 113 (34), pp. 423-442, 2007. http://www.severineautesserre.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/SevRoape.pdf

 “Local violence, National Peace? Post-War ‘Settlement’ in the Eastern D.R. Congo,” African Studies Review, 49 (3), pp. 1-29, 2006. http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/item/ac:145072

“The Trouble With the Congo: A Precis,” Book Symposium on “The Trouble With the Congo,” African Security Review, 20(2), pp. 56-65, 2011. http://www.severineautesserre.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/PrecisASR.pdf

“Seven Commentaries, Three Debates and One Book: the Author's Response,” Book Symposium on “The Trouble With the Congo,” African Security Review, 20(2), pp. 114-124, 2011. http://www.severineautesserre.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ResponseASR...

“De Frontlinie van Vrede in Oost-Congo” in Pieter d’Hoine and Bart Pattyn (eds.), Wetenschap Voor een Nieuwe Wereld (Lessen voor de Eenentwintigste Eeuw, 30), Leuven, Belgium: Leuven Universitaire Pers, translated by Bart Pattyn, pp. 13-26, 2024

“Paternalism and Peacebuilding: Capacity, Knowledge, and Resistance in International Interventions” in Barnett, Michael (ed.), Paternalism Beyond Borders, Cambridge University Press (2016)

“Penser les Conflits Locaux: L’Echec de l’Intervention Internationale au Congo” (Understanding Local Conflicts: the Failure of the International Intervention in the Congo), L’Afrique des Grands Lacs : Annuaire 2007-2008, Paris: L’Harmattan, pp. 179-196, 2008. http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/item/ac:145134

"The Crisis of Peacekeeping - Why the UN Can't End Wars," Foreign Affairs, 98 (1), pp. 101-116, January/February 2019

"War and Peacekeeping" (debate with Peter Yeo), Foreign Affairs, 98 (3), pp. 218-219, April/May 2019

Spanish translation: "La Crisis del Mantenimiento de la Paz," Foreign Affairs LatinoAmérica, 19 (3), July/September 2019

“The Right Way to Build Peace in Congo,” Foreign Affairs (online), April 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/democratic-republic-congo/2017-0...

 “What the Uproar Over Congo’s Elections Misses,” Foreign Affairs (online), March 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2017-03-01/what-uproar-over-cong...

“Trouble in Peaceland,” Foreign Policy, Peace Channel (online), October 2015. http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/10/06/trouble-in-peaceland-united-nations-...

“Local Knowledge and Peacebuilding,” in What Needs to Change in UN Peace Operations: An Expert Briefing Book Prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, Center on International Cooperation and International Peace Institute, November 2014. http://futurepeaceops.org/2016/02/15/local-knowledge-and-peacebuilding/

“Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding: The Trouble with the Congo,” Memo distributed at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Warsaw, Poland, October 2013

“Peacetime Violence - Post-Conflict Violence and Peace-Building Strategies.” Program on States and Security, 2009. http://conflictfieldresearch.colgate.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Aute...

“The Trouble with Congo - How Local Disputes Fuel Regional Violence,” Foreign Affairs, 87 (3), pp. 94-110, May/June 2008. http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:173078

“Kongo’da siddet ve ölüm kültürü” (Violence and the Culture of Death in the Congo), Birikim (Turkey), 174, pp. 88-96, 2003. Translated by K. Caliskan. http://www.severineautesserre.com/wp-content/uploads/2003/10/Birikim-Art...

“The United States’ ‘Humanitarian Diplomacy’ in South Sudan,” Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, January 2002. http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:173075