The humanitarian and development industry in eastern DRC and the demand for qualitative and quantitative research accompanying it have created a novel political economy of academic research. An array of research associations and private data collection firms have emerged to respond to this demand from Western universities and research projects. The racial dimension of academic research is rarely reflected upon, partly because it is often invisible to white Western researchers.

This paper reflects on the creation and evolution of a non-profit association specialized in data collection in conflict-affected areas of eastern DRC. The association was conceived by Congolese and European founders as an enclave against the racism that pervades professional relations in the region, an experiment upheld by a collective commitment to academic research and egalitarianism. Written from the perspective of three of its founding members, this paper analyses how racialized discursive repertoires and cognitive biases (re)appeared within the organization.