Returning culture to peacebuilding : contesting the liberal peace in Sierra Leone
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This thesis investigates the advantages and limitations of applying culture to the analysis of violent conflict and peacebuilding, with a particular focus on liberal peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. While fully aware of the critique of the concept of culture in terms of its uses for the production of difference and ‘otherness,’ it also seeks to respond to the critique of liberal peacebuilding on the account of its low sensitivity towards local culture, which allegedly undermines the peace effort. After a careful examination of the terms of discussion about culture enabled by theoretical approaches to conflict in Chapter 2, the thesis presents a theoretical framework for the analysis of cultural aspects of conflict and peace based on the processes and effects of meaning-generation (Chapter 3), developing the conceptual apparatus and vocabulary for the subsequent empirical study. Instead of bracketing out the recursive nature of cultural theorising, the developed approach embraces the recursive dynamics which arise as a result of cultural ‘embeddedness’ of the analyst and the processes which s/he seeks to elucidate, mirroring similar dynamics in the cultural production of meaning and knowledge. The framework of ‘embedded cultural enquiry’ is then used to analyse the practices of liberal peacebuilding as a particular culture, which shapes the interaction of the liberal peace with its ‘subjects’ and critics as well as framing its reception of the cultural problematic generally (Chapter 4). The application of the analytical framework to the case study investigates the interaction between the liberal peace and ‘local culture,’ offering an alternative reading of the conflict and peace process in Sierra Leone (Chapter 5). The study concludes that a greater attention to cultural meaning-making offers a largely untapped potential for peacebuilding, although any decisions with regard to its deployment will inevitably be made from within an inherently biased cultural perspective.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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