New peacekeeping research to put local community at heart of solution
16 June 2016 - Carrie Braithwaite
A new 18-month research project is set to launch in June, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), exploring how local knowledge can be harnessed in unarmed civilian peacekeeping to promote community resilience against violence in Myanmar.
Led by Dr Rachel Julian, Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the BA (Hons) International Relations and Peace Studies and MA Peace and Development at our University, the project aims to build a case study of local conflict knowledge among violence-affected communities in Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Dr Julian is set to work with three experienced peace and conflict researchers from the UK and US, with the support of a partner non-governmental organisation (NGO), Nonviolent Peaceforce, which has been engaged in unarmed civilian peacekeeping (UCP) projects around the world since 2002 and has been working in Myanmar since 2012.
Dr Julian explained: “Myanmar is a country is in a state of political transition and there is are ongoing ceasefire agreements and peace negotiations going on.
“Our ‘Raising Silent Voices’ project acknowledges that local conflict knowledge may present itself in culturally different forms. Our research will reflect the importance of placing local, contested, knowledge in the centre of intervention strategies: empowering and enabling local people and potentially making interventions more effective.”
Using a variety of different methods such as storytelling, music, theatre, and crafts, the research team will investigate the links between culture and knowledge in Myanmar. The project will also involve the training of local researchers from, or with deep understanding of, the specific communities affected by violence, in using storytelling and arts-based approaches to enable the local people to share their understanding of the conflicts, violence and peace strategies.
Dr Julian continued: “This international and innovative research will impact on local people by making their voices louder and clearer, and it will potentially make Nonviolent Peaceforce interventions more effective. The major innovation in our research is the mapping of locally-generated and collected knowledge that is expected to disrupt some of the accepted understandings, visible in traditional conflict analysis, of what conflict is and how we categorise its effects on local communities. By local communities we mean those living with the violence, not their representatives living outside the community.
“In traditional conflict analyses, we expect to find links between violence, poverty, marginalisation, however since local knowledge does not draw on the entrenched categories and distinctions of western conflict analysis, the relationships between these aspects are expected to be understood in different ways than perceived by outsiders. We expect that this deeper understanding will be useful to UCP workers to better support local peacebuilding efforts and strengthen community resilience.”
Working with Dr Julian on the project will be: Dr Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Senior Lecturer in Peacebuilding, Post-war Reconstruction and Transitional Justice at Aberystwyth University; Dr Ellen Furnari, an independent researcher focusing on knowledge creation in the midst of conflict and UCP; and Huibert Oldenhuis, Nonviolent Peaceforce country director in Myanmar.
Image used under creative commons license and courtesy of Shaun Dunphy.