Fulgencio Seda (Lucas) - Development Studies (ISS)

Fulgencio Seda studies borders from a different perspective

"A person crossing the border for medical treatment is not a terrorist."

Fulgencio Seda’s (Lucas) PhD research project focuses on the meanings of borders in post-war Mozambique. It explores and contrasts the Eurocentric model of border control vis-à-vis the public discourse practices of borders rooted in cooperation between cross-border communities.

Fulgencio is a man who doesn’t shy away from a challenge. He left his parent’s house at the age of 17 to move to Mozambique's capital Maputo to take his Honours Degree in Police Sciences, subsequently moving on to South Africa to take his Master’s degree in Public and Development Management, without any preparation in terms of the English language. Not that this has stopped him from succeeding, however. Fulgencio: “Amongst the 67 who enrolled that year, I was the only one to graduate on time.”

Dealing with diversities
After graduating, he started working as a lecturer at the Police Academy in Maputo and Polytechnic University of Mozambique. In 2011, he moved to the Netherlands to undertake a PhD research project at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

“All these changes of environment have made me a stronger person.”

Fulgencio: “I like to deal with diversities. All these changes of environment have made me a stronger person. I can live anywhere, because I know that in few days I will be integrated.”

Making a difference
Fulgencio’s broader research interests are migration and border issues in post-colonial countries. “But with this PhD project I really wanted to make a difference,” Fulgencio says of his research, which focuses on border controls seen from the security perspective. “I’m studying the security conflict in relation to the role of borders in post-war Mozambique. My research can contribute to an understanding of borders from a different perspective.”

Divided communities
The context of borders in post-colonial countries differs a great deal from the European context, Fulgencio explains:  “In Africa, borders were man-made and divided communities. Due to the way borders are being controlled, these communities are suffering: they lack water, health services, education, a market.”

War on Terror
The hard focus on security in relation to African borders is the result of international security standards imposed by international institutions within the context of The War on Terror. Standards imposed within a European context of perceived terror threats. “By complying with these international standards, developing and post-colonial countries are neglecting the local contexts of their borders,” Fulgencio states. “A person crossing the border for medical treatment is not a terrorist.”

European vs. African context
This is why Fulgencio wants borders to reflect the post-colonial context. “Unlike in Europe, in Africa you cannot remove physical borders; that would lead to endless conflicts. Now these countries have borders that perform an economic and a hard security role, but they are neglecting the social role.”

"We should understand borders holistically, because otherwise the social context will be neglected."

Fulgencio is researching how different kinds of borders can be established, in which the human aspect of security can be combined with the hard aspect of security.  “We should understand borders holistically, because otherwise the social context will be neglected; this would lead to even more conflicts between the state and local communities.”

Endless topic 
“I can feel that my contribution is going to make a difference in terms of the framing of border studies,” Fulgencio says. “The post-colonial country perspective of border control I’m adding is something that was missing from border studies. It’s an exciting topic, but also a much discussed topic everywhere. Most of the issues in the world are about borders. It’s an endless topic for discussion every day.”

It’s not about the title
By May next year, Fulgencio will be a PhD, but for him it’s not about the title. In fact, if he could become a doctor today, he wouldn’t want to: “I wouldn’t deserve it, because I haven’t gone through the whole process that takes me to that stage,” he says. “Until next year, I’ll keep growing academically. It’s this process which is the most exciting part of my academic development.”

Mind-opening tools
He describes his experience as a PhD at ISS as ‘very comfortable’. “All the facilities are here, and all they want is for you to study. They offer many tools, like the methodological course at the beginning, that helps you in the PhD process and gives you the open mind to judge whether you’re on the right track. You’re being offered many opportunities to prove you deserve to do this research, and also to present it. It’s really inspiring, but it comes with a lot of responsibility too. But this is exactly what really motivates me.”


On November 30th 2015, Fulgêncio Lucas Muti Seda successfully defended his PhD thesis on 'Border Governance in Mozambique: The Intersection of International Border Controls, Regional Integration and Cross-border Regions'