My qualitative research in South-Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo suggests that teachers link experienced violence to their role as state representatives. Three elements evoke the militia’s distrust: literacy, cell phones, and mobility. Reportedly, militias assume that teachers use these elements to cooperate with the military. This article therefore understands these elements as symbols of stateness, and it demonstrates how a state with overall weak capacities can have significant meaning for teachers’ everyday lives in the form of the state-image.

Thereby, the article sheds a critical light on approaches that frame teacher (re)deployment in conflict-affected contexts around normalcy and resilience. As teachers cannot escape their affiliation to the state, they live in an unsettling proximity to people who turned against them and who might again do so. Since reasons of the conflict remain unaddressed, teachers become reluctant representatives of a state system in which they themselves are structurally neglected.