The Good, the Bad, and the Powerful: Representations of the Local in Peacebuilding
Andreas HIRBLINGER (REPI)
Discussant: Maria MARTIN de ALMAGRO (REPI)
REPI PhD Seminar
@ ULB IEE, 39 avenue F. D. Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles - Kant Room
The “local” haunts peacebuilding. Whether it is invoked in debates about local ownership, civil society, “traditional” institutions, hybridity, agency, resistance against international intervention, the local constitutes a critical element in peacebuilding studies. While it is now widely acknowledged that anything local is complex, unstable and relational, scholars continue to make truth claims about local actors and practices. This leads to an incomplete perspective on peacebuilding, which conceals the constructed nature of the local. In contrast, this research argues for a reflexive perspective, suggesting that the local is both used and produced through practices of representation, and that these representations serve to define what good and right peacebuilding entails. A “perspective on perspectives”, it will be demonstrated, makes possible to focus on how representations of the local relate to political agendas in peacebuilding, and thus can account for the effects of choosing one mode of representation over another. Two case studies from Burundi and South Sudan demonstrate how representations of the local are conflictingly produced by scholars, practitioners and government officials, telling about the true, the good and the bad local, empowering some and disempowering other actors, institutions and practices. These dynamics have tangible consequences on peace, conflict and (in)security.