What can one say about the academic study of violent conflict and its implications for the practice of peacebuilding? There is no reason to assume a necessary relationship between these two spheres of activity; the study of armed conflict may or may not have any practical significance for peacebuilding. Of course many scholars in this field are motivated in part by the hope and expectation that their findings will make a contribution, however slight, to the building and maintenance of peace. The editors of Journal of Peace Research articulated this same expectation when, in the inaugural issue of the journal some 50 years ago, they expressed the view that ‘[p]eace research should … concern itself with [the] reduction of violence and [the] promotion of integration.…and should, preferably, have relevance for peace policy’ (Editorial 1964, 2,4). There are two aspects to this question: one is the relationship between the study of war and the study of peace, which other scholars have addressed (Gledhill and Bright 2017); the other is the relationship between the study of war and the practice of peacebuilding. This essay is concerned with the latter aspect and, more specifically, with how the academic study of armed conflict may be able to further enrich the practice of peacebuilding.
Charles King is Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University, where he also serves as chair of the Department of Government. He previously served as chair of the faculty of Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the country’s premier school of global affairs. King’s research has focused on nationalism, ethnic politics, transitions from authoritarianism, urban history, and the relationship between history and the social sciences. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul (W. W. Norton, 2014); Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (W. W. Norton, 2011), which received the National Jewish Book Award; and The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008), which was named “History Book of the Year” by the Moscow Times.
On 20 May 2015, the ISN hosted an Evening Talk on “International Law and the Changing Face of Conflict,” which featured the University of Notre Dame’s Dr. Tanisha Fazal, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies there. Today, we feature 1) her presentation on the proliferation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and its unintended consequences, and 2) highlights from the subsequent questions and answers session, which was moderated by the ISN’s Peter Faber.
We are delighted to announce that the Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales (CAEI) has joined our global partner network.
Based in Buenos Aires, CAEI is a civil society institution that aims to foster understanding of prominent issues on the international agenda from a pluralistic and interdisciplinary perspective. CAEI runs academic programs on all regions in the world, with a special focus on Latin American countries. Several thematic programs cover subjects from the history of international relations to science and technology.
CAEI’s specialty is the Program on Political Phenomenology (PPP), which aims at creating innovative ideas and making theoretical and methodological contributions to the field of area studies.
We’re thrilled to be able to extend our reach in Latin America with CAEI’s support. CAEI’s research will allow our users to get better insights into Latin American politics, as well as a different perspective on global affairs.
While everyone agreed that not all research must necessarily be policy relevant, the participants stressed the need for more cooperation.
The tension between demand-driven research and academic excellence dominated the discussions. On the one hand, research should provide information to help solve practical policy problems. On the other hand however, research must remain independent from the policy realm in order to guarantee objectivity and innovation.
A panelist argued that this tension was very present among European researchers, but that it didn’t bother US academics as much. Fellow Americans, if you read this, how did you solve the problem?
Here are a few (summarized) thoughts from panelists, both academics and policymakers.