2021
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Journal Article: Building Peace in the Shadow of War: Women-to-Women Diplomacy as Alternative Peacebuilding Practice in Myanmar

Magda Lorena Cárdenas and Elisabeth Olivius

Conventional assumptions locating peacebuilding temporally after violence have largely prevented exploration of how peacebuilding is practiced amidst conditions of ongoing violence. This article addresses this gap by analysing how Myanmar women’s activists have devised strategies in pursuit of peace, amidst ongoing armed conflict, from the 1990s and onwards. The findings demonstrate that women’s inter-ethnic cooperation contributed to transform conflict divides long before the initiation of formal national peace negotiations in 2011. Further, theorizing these peacebuilding practices, the article provides new insights into the dynamics of women’s peace activism of relevance beyond the case of Myanmar.

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Journal Article: Care and silence in women’s everyday peacebuilding in Myanmar

Linnéa Blomqvist, Elisabeth Olivius and Jenny Hedström

This article draws on feminist perspectives on the everyday to explore women’s everyday experiences of peace in Kayah state in Myanmar. We locate the daily practices women engage in to maintain life and minimise violence, making visible women’s contributions to everyday peace. In addition, we examine the ways in which women are disproportionally affected by war and prevented from benefitting from post-war changes. Our findings demonstrate that practices of care and silence are key avenues for women’s everyday peacebuilding, through which women sustain peace, ensure survival, and minimise violence in their families and wider communities. At the same time, however, these practices are conditioned by and may contribute to gendered insecurity and marginalisation for women. Through this focus, our analysis shows how women’s positioning in gendered relations of power may both enable their agency in peacebuilding and reinforce their gendered inequality and marginalisation in the post-war period. We conclude that while everyday peace practices may hold the potential for positive change, these can also contribute to the reproduction of inequality, oppression and structural violence.

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Journal Article: The Art Of Arms (Not) Being Governed: Means Of Violence And Shifting Territories In The Borderworlds of Myanmar

Francesco Buscemi

Predominant approaches in the rebel governance literature have looked at control over the means of violence as a prerogative of rebel-rulers, or armed/non-armed actors, somehow deterministically linked to territory. Here weapons have been understood as either autonomous technical-factors or as analytically invisible objects instrumental to human agencies and interactions aiming to territorial control. This paper challenges understandings of control over the means of violence as a central property radiating outwardly through hierarchically and geographically ordered spatial containers. It argues that the means of violence are relational networks among heterogeneous human-non-human entities – e.g. weapons, stockpiles, militarised architectures, forms, armed individuals/groups – that generate territory. These networks are controlled and stabilised via diffused techniques and rationalities of control. Drawing on the study of Ta’ang areas of Northern Shan State in Myanmar, this paper finds that controlling the means of violence occurs via turbulent combinations of technical objects, techniques and rationalities that relate to four main domains: narcotics eradication; institutionalisation; ethnonationality; and humanitarian security. Processes and practices through which attempts to control the means of violence are made entail alternative strategies to re-generate spatial organisational control and shape multiple shifting territories. 

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Special Issue Editorial: Exploring Varieties of Peace: Advancing the Agenda

Elisabeth Olivius and Malin Åkebo

Within peace and conflict research, the study of peace has received far less scholarly attention than the study of war and violence. Moreover, among the studies that pay particular attention to peace, a negative peace conception, which equates peace with the absence of direct violence between formerly warring parties, has generally dominated. Consequently, peace itself is underconceptualised. This situation has prompted recent calls for the development of new theoretical frameworks, analytical tools, and methodologies that can enable nuanced empirical analyses and assessments of peace across empirical cases. This special issue, titled Exploring Varieties of Peace, responds to these calls and seeks to advance conceptual understandings as well as empirical analyses of peace that provide new insights into the ways in which peace is manifested, experienced, and understood. The special issue originates from the Varieties of Peace research programme and network, which was launched in 2017 at Umeå University, Sweden, with support from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences. Several of the contributions were discussed at the Varieties of Peace Asia Conference, which was organised in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 22–24, 2019, in cooperation with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

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Journal Article: The politics of sexual violence in the Kachin conflict in Myanmar

Jenny Hedström and Elisabeth Olivius

Conflict-related sexual violence has been the focus of significant international activism and policy attention, and a representation of sexual violence as a “weapon of war” is now widely endorsed. This article examines how international norms about conflict-related sexual violence are adopted and utilized in multiple ways in the armed conflict in Kachin state in northern Myanmar. Throughout decades of civil war, international norms on sexual violence have constituted key resources for international advocacy and awareness raising by local women’s rights activists. Further, activists have drawn on international norms to effect changes in gendered relations of power within their own communities. However, international norms on sexual violence in conflict have also been effectively used as tools for ethnonationalist identity politics, rallying support behind the armed insurgency and mobilizing women’s unpaid labor in the service of war. Thus, international norms on conflict-related sexual violence have simultaneously opened up space for women’s empowerment and political agency and reproduced gendered forms of insecurity and marginalization. Exploring these contradictions and complexities, this analysis generates novel insights into the politics of international norms in contexts of armed conflict.

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Journal Article: Autonomous Peace? The Bangsamoro Region in the Philippines Beyond the 2014 Agreement

Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs, Kristine Höglund and Mélida Jiménez

What kind of peace has emerged in the Bangsamoro region in the Philippines after the 2014 peace agreement? And how does it matter for the prospects of sustainable peace and development? The peace deal between the government of Philippines and the armed group Moro Islamic Liberation Front builds on the establishment of a new autonomous region. The new autonomy has the potential to end a prolonged cycle of armed rebellions. But if it fails to deliver the expected peace dividends, it could also lead to escalating violence. This article uses the Peace Triangle as a conceptual tool to analyse the current status of peace in Bangsamoro. As such, it advances a theoretical understanding of peace that focuses on how autonomy solutions impact on conflict issues, violent behaviour, and conflict attitudes and aid an assessment of the longer term prospects of peace in the wake of autonomy

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Brief: War Widows’ Everyday Understandings of Peace in Aceh, Indonesia

Veronica Strandh and Benni Yusriza

What kind of peace can be established after a protracted conflict? How do marginalised groups, such as war widows, navigate through decades of hardship, and how do they understand peace in their everyday lives? This briefing sheds light on these questions through the lens of a group of war widows’ lived experiences of the conflict in Aceh, Indonesia, and their perceptions of how peace plays out in their lives. Our contribution is mainly empirical. We show how war widows use a “peace as no war narrative” and how this seems to work in tandem with what they call an “uneconomic peace.”

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Journal Article: Spatial Struggles and the Politics of Peace: The Aung San Statue as a Site for Post-War Conflict in Myanmar’s Kayah State

Elisabeth Olivius and Jenny Hedström

This article explores processes of place-making and space-making around the erection of the Aung San statue in Kayah state in Myanmar and draws out the competing visions of peace that are articulated through them. The raising of the statue unleashed widespread public protest, which was largely met by repression by the Myanmar authorities. Drawing on interviews, focus groups, and documentary sources, the article argues that the statue constitutes an attempt to establish a post-war political order centred on the reassertion of government authority in ethnic minority areas and the creation of unity through the imposition of one national identity. However, the statue has also been appropriated as a key site for the articulation of alternative visions of peace and development. The conflict around the statue thereby makes visible ongoing struggles over the meaning of peace and shows how these post-war struggles are fought on and through space and place.

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Journal Article: Dealing With Sri Lanka’s Demons: Using Documentary Film for Peacebuilding

Nilanjana Premaratna

Documentary film is a popular resource amongst peacebuilding organisations and practitioners. Despite this popularity, research on documentary film is still emerging in peace and conflict studies. This article explores documentary film’s role in the study and practice of peacebuilding by examining the documentary Demons in Paradise and its engagement with issues of peace and conflict in post-war Sri Lanka. This article makes conceptual, methodological, and empirical contributions. Drawing from empirical research, it identifies and discusses documentary film’s engagement along three analytical angles: documentary film as a text, within social processes, and within research processes. Under each angle, the paper explores how empirical observations and understanding of peace emerge through the visual, using diverse methods and data, including interviews, participant observation, visual elicitation in post-screening focus groups, and film analysis.