Practicing peacebuilding differently : a legal empowerment project, a randomised control trial and practical hybridity in Liberia
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Hybridity, as it is currently understood in the Peace and Conflict Studies (PCS) and International Relations (IR) literature, is defined by the complex interactions between ‘the liberal peace’ and ‘the local’. However, under this theoretical liberal-local rubric, the ways in which power is practiced has already been determined; how resistance is expressed and the forms it assumes have already been established. While it has yielded numerous important insights into how power circulates and resistance manifests in peacebuilding operations, the theoretical approach conceals other significant dynamics which escape detection by ‘the liberal peace’ and ‘the local’. However, these undetected dimensions of hybridity comprise the very processes that emerge in ways which destabilise the boundaries between ‘the liberal peace’ and ‘the local’ and reshape the contours of the emerging post-liberal peace. Instead of accepting the liberal-local distinction which defines this theoretical hybridity, this thesis advances an alternative methodological approach to exploring the tensions at play in peacebuilding projects. Rather than deploying theoretical distinctions in order to explain or understand complex hybrid processes, this thesis develops a methodological strategy for exploring the tensions between how actors design a peacebuilding project and how that project changes as actors work to translate that project into complex, everyday living sites (Callon, 1986; Law, 1997; Akrich, 1992). This tension is expressed as practical hybridity. The process of practical hybridity unfolds as the concrete material changes, modifications, and adaptations that emerge as actors appropriate and contingently translate organised practices in new ways and for different purposes. Through an ongoing process of practical hybridity, the boundaries and distinction which define the distinction between ‘the liberal peace’ and ‘the local’ become increasingly unstable. Amidst this instability, the practices which characterised ‘the liberal peace’ are becoming stretched into a post-liberal peace. Drawing on the work of Richmond (2011a; Richmond & Mitchell, 2012), Latour (1987b; 1988; 2004), and Schatzki (2002), and based on over five months of field research, this this thesis traces the process of practical hybridity at play during the implementation and evaluation of a peacebuilding project in Liberia. I participated as a research assistant on a Randomised Control Trial (RCT), implemented by a small research team under the auspices of the Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE). The team was assessing the impact of a legal empowerment programme managed by The Carter Center: the Community Justice Advisor (CJA) programme. As the CSAE’s evaluation of the CJA programme unfolded, many dynamics associated with theoretical liberal-local hybridity surfaced; however, it also became apparent that this theoretical formulation obscured important dimensions which were reshaping what peacebuilding practice is in the process of becoming in the emerging post-liberal world.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Print and electronic copy restricted until 11th June 2019
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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