Overview: A tribute to Roland Marchal

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As part of the campaign to free Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal, a group of his colleagues explain the situation and introduce the dossier of articles in support of Marchal that Democracy in Africa is proud to be publishing in his honour. To support the campaign, follow @FaribaRoland on Twitter.

Roland Marchal and Fariba Adelkhah, two research Professors from the CERI-Sciences Po, have been detained in Iran since June 2019. They are being used as bargaining chips by Iran. Their detention has triggered a large transnational mobilization. In addition to the campaigning for their immediate and unconditional release, their colleagues and friends explain why their research is so crucial and why we need them and want them back. This series of articles focuses on the work of our Roland Marchal, a French sociologist known by many readers of Democracy in Africa. Some of the articles were initially published in a Sociétés Politiques Comparées, a French academic journal, alongside an essay on the work of Fariba Adelkhah.

The articles gather reflections and testimonies on the multiple contributions made by Roland Marchal. These have been written by Roland’s colleagues and friends: several academics, a humanitarian professional and a human rights lawyer and activist. Together, these pieces form a portrait of the field researcher, the sociologist, the specialist of armed conflicts, the public intellectual and the expert in UN meetings. They also show that Roland’s academic work is never purely intellectual games. In his everyday work, he puts into practice Durkheim’s famous words on research not being “worth a single hour’s effort if it were to have no more than speculative interest”.

In this dossier, we can see the sociologist Roland Marchal in the academic portrait drawn by Didier Péclard and Sandrine Perrot. Louisa Lombard and Tatiana Carayannis explain how Roland provided ground-breaking insights into the society at war in the Central African Republic. We can also see him as an expert researcher, outspoken in his criticism of “international community” interventions. As Enrica Picco explains so well, he has dared suggest “out of the box” ideas for ending the crisis in the CAR – often too progressive for the United Nations. Delphine Kemneloum Djiraïbe offers a different aspect of his personality: a man who is committed in his field, who works with Chadian civil society and is unafraid to explain, whether in Paris or N’Djamena, why France supports the President Idriss Déby.

These texts are about Roland’s research – but they are also about how he works, how he builds relationships, and how he makes friends – and enemies. Roland makes no attempt to go with the flow. It is precisely this ability to dare to displease that enables him to drive debate forwards.


Tatiana Carayannis is Program Director at the Social Science Research Council.

Marielle Debos is Associate Professor in political science at University Paris Nanterre and a researcher at the Institute for Social sciences of Politics (ISP).

Delphine Kemneloum Djiraïbé is a lawyer and human rights activist in Chad. She was the first president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (ATPDH). She is now lead lawyer at the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) in Chad.

Louisa Lombard is Associate Professor of anthropology at Yale.

Didier Péclard is a senior lecturer in political science and the director of the Master’s in African Studies at the University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute, Switzerland.

Sandrine Perrot is a researcher in political science at the Center for International Studies, Sciences Po Paris.

Enrica Picco is a lawyer and researcher, a specialist in Central Africa and a former member of the United Nations Group of Experts on the Central African Republic.



The articles by Louisa Lombard, Tatiana Carayannis, Enrica Picco, Delphine Kemneloum Djiraïbé were initially published in Marielle Debos et al., Roland Marchal au travail: les multiples facettes d’un chercheur tout terrain, Sociétés politiques comparées, 49, September/December 2019, http://www.fasopo.org/sites/default/files/charivaria_n49_2.pdf

An earlier version of the article by Didier Péclard and Sandrine Perrot was initially published by the Fonds d’Analyse des Sociétés Politiques.

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