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Peacebuilding in Muslim Societies: Local Initatives in Conflict Managment

Session X-13, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, December 3 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
The contemporary field of peace and conflict studies emerged in the late 20th century following the global scale tragedy of the two world wars. Researchers, diplomats, and practitioners championed approaches of liberal peacemaking by implementing the concepts of preventive diplomacy, economic interdependence, and democracy. Many critics have addressed the fallouts of liberal peacemaking, some argue that it implements a top-down approach in peacebuilding that centers the state and its institutions, translates the interest and ideologies of the Global North, and lacks in-depth understanding of local values, experiences, and expertise that promote peace and solve conflicts. Al-Hokama Center for Peace Research highlights and promotes “the local turn” in peace and conflict studies by shifting the focus towards the importance of local culture and agency of local communities in building sustainable, bottom-up peace in conflict-afflicted societies and in understanding the causes of violence and preventing escalation. Through this panel, we invite interested scholars to explore community-based approaches and locally rooted mechanisms for conflict settlement, conflict management, conflict resolution, and conflict prevention. We are interested in research that is inter-disciplinary, multi-level (individuals, communities, and states), both theoretical and applied. We encourage scholars to present case studies that highlight local peace initiatives and theoretical studies that explore the framework of everyday peace, local peace, and bottom-up peacebuilding -- with a special focus on Muslim societies. We welcome scholars of different linguistic, geographical, and disciplinary backgrounds.
  • The aim of this article is to examine and analyze the causes that led to the failure of peace making and peace building in post-war Lebanon. We emphasize that the Tai’f Agreement of 1989-1990 that ended the Lebanese civil war was negotiated between the Lebanese political elites failed to improve inter-communal relations at the grassroots level those who represent the population at large. The political elites were interested in securing their sectarian and confessional privileges and interests rather than taking initiatives and making policies to address the consequences of the war on inter-group relations between Christians and Muslims. A big number of the internally displaced persons and refugees did not return to their villages and the fate of the disappeared remained unknown. In 2000, the Maronite Church took the initiative to improve inter-group relations in Mount Lebanon as a peace making effort but reconciliation did not take place. We use John Paul Lederach’s pyramid as an analytical approach to focus on particular concerns that affected the population in a setting of internal armed conflict. The Pyramid permits us to lay out the leadership that should be engaged in peace making at three major categories: top level, middle range, and the grassroots. During different stages inter-group violence recurred in Lebanese society mainly because quality peace was not made. We conclude that a multi track approach is necessary to build sustainable peace.
  • The Arab world has become the most war-affected region in the world in recent years being plagued with civil wars spread from Syria and Iraq to Yemen to Libya. International and regional actors carried out numerous mediation initiatives to respond to these wars though only little success has been achieved. In this research project, fifteen regional and international mediation scholars came together to systematically analyze mediation efforts in conflicts in the Arab world in the past ten years. This book is the first publication that takes a comprehensive approach to mediation in the Arab world analyzing mediation cases in Yemen, Sudan, Qatar, Palestine, Syria, Algeria, Libya, Somalia, and Iraq. The book has successfully passed a rigorous peer-review process by Syracuse University Press, and it is now in the production phase. As the editors of this book, we are proposing that we present the research project findings on mediation efforts in the Arab world at the coming MESA Conference in Dec. 2022 This contribution builds on the comparative analysis of more than fifteen case studies from different countries. It synthesizes research findings from projects that have used a wide array of methodological instruments and analytical approaches in the study of mediation in the Arab world. The variety of cases and methods used in this research project paves the way for a better understanding of processes of conflict mediation in the Arab world. This book is divided into three major parts, covering mediation in the Arab world from different perspectives and analytical prisms. In Part I: General Trajectories and Challenges of Mediation in the Arab World, we analyze the regional trends and overarching problems relating to mediation in the Arab World. In Part II: Case Studies of Mediation in or by Arab Countries, we focus more specifically on some of the most central cases of mediation in the Arab world and study them intensively. In the third and last section, Part III: Local Level-Mediation in the Arab World, we study intra-state local level dynamics of mediation.
  • Beirut’s southern suburbs, known as Dahiyeh, offer a compelling site for empirical exploration and theorisation around geographies of urban peace and conflict that go beyond the Westphalian-Weberian model. Dahiyeh is a product of war and socio-economic marginalisation, part of the broader contested urban space of Beirut. Predominantly Shia, it has multiple societal cleavages which can fuel insecurity – regional, clan/family-based, political, socio-economic, refugee/citizen, sectarian. It encompasses both informal impoverished and affluent neigbourhoods and lies on key translocal crime routes. Multiple armed actors (political parties, most notably Hizbullah, state actors, clan militias) operate in shifting and spatially varied security assemblages. This paper asks: how do residents of Dahiyeh navigate conflict in this contested urban space and how do they negotiate everyday peace? Residents and security actors have developed well-honed practices to manage everyday (in)security. We will focus on informal mediations as everyday peace practices, typically carried out by nonstate actors (family elders, local party officials) or state actors with family connections. Who is called in depends on the structural and normative characteristics of the location, what broader structures and networks it is embedded in, and the social characteristics of the conflict parties. Whether mediations are perceived positively or as imposing insecurity depends in part on whether residents consent to or oppose the status quo. Drawing on fieldwork spanning 2016-2020, we will analyse narratives and experiences of conflict resolution across Dahiyeh through a spatialised Bourdieusian framework, exploring what types of capital successful mediators have in different locations and what role habitus and doxa play in affecting capital valuation and establishing shared norms and practices. Of particular interest are the relative roles played by state and nonstate mediators, the interplay between coercive and symbolic capital, and the interplay between habitus and individual agency. By focusing on the experiences of ‘ordinary’ residents, and by developing a theoretical framework that allows us to analyse the routine, spatial and relational practices that residents employ to navigate conflict in Dahiyeh, our paper seeks to contribute to the vernacularisation and to the spatial and everyday turns in Peace and Conflict studies as well as to the ‘peace’ turn in urban geography.