Unlocking the conflictive ethos in protracted conflicts : can for-profit initiatives support agonistic peacebuilding in Myanmar?
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Across peacebuilding and political-economy literature, there is mounting recognition that a political peace abstracted from economic realities is unlikely to hold, especially where horizontal inequalities go unaddressed. Concurrently, there is growing evidence suggesting the need to engage for-profit initiatives and actors in peacebuilding to address pragmatic, everyday concerns. Against the backdrop of hybrid peacebuilding theses and by innovatively bringing complementary but divided peacebuilding, political economy and social psychology scholarship together, this thesis considers the question, In the context of post-liberal peacebuilding literature and the increasingly acknowledged need to address socio-psychological infrastructures of conflict, under what conditions and through which strategies might for-profit initiatives contribute to the establishment of agonistic relations between communities experiencing protracted conflict? Utilizing Daniel Bar-Tal’s (1998, 2007) eight themes of societal beliefs as a point of reference, the research interrogates how for profit activities might engage with existing institutions, actors, and programmes, and what their legitimacy, priorities and motives might be. Presenting a unique contribution to the literature on a complex contemporary conflict with implications for regional Asian power dynamics, the research is grounded in and presented against the context of Myanmar’s transition from authoritarian rule; a context within which peace and economic reform are overtly and inextricably intertwined with elite majority, structural power, and weaponised social norms. The thesis presents an analysis of original data collected from three active, hybrid, for-profit initiatives undertaken in active conflicts which seek to transform perceptions of other at the local level, acknowledging that ‘top-down’ peace and constitutional reform processes are underway. The thesis reveals original evidence that small-scale, for-profit initiatives may be uniquely placed at the local level to establish agonistic relations by enabling contact between communities which would otherwise not be engaged in peacebuilding, and that, when appropriately structured, such initiatives have the potential to ‘unlock’ the prevailing conflictive ethos. In doing so, the thesis advances the dual concepts that a ‘reboot’ is needed in our understanding of how peace is conceived, and that iterative steps which advance agonistic relations, integrated more closely with for-profit and community realities, are likely to be the future of peacebuilding rather than the grand bargains of the past which favour well positioned elites and replicate conflict cycles.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-06-10
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 10th June 2025
Description of related resourcesUnlocking the conflictive ethos in protracted conflicts: Can for-profit initiatives support agonistic peacebuilding in Myanmar? (Thesis data) Armstrong, E.J., University of St Andrews. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17630/38b75b3c-ab51-44fe-bf0b-e874f3a552d7
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