News from the Centre

CfP: Peacebuilding and the Politics of Difference

06.04.2017 The study of peacebuilding has evolved dramatically in the last 20 years. Throughout the 1990s, John Paul Lederach or Kevin Avruch urged us to recognize the importance of difference—alterity—in the study and practice of peacebuilding, posing a challenge to universal understandings of reconciliation and peace. Today, scholars and practitioners are decidedly moving away from universalised assumptions of peace and are seeking to include those they consider as ‘different’ in the definition and implementation of peacebuilding policies. While earlier peacebuilding approaches ignored difference or considered it as a clear obstacle to peace, difference is now seen more positively, often as a tool to foster emancipatory ways of building peace.

Yet difference continues to be under-theorised. As a result, and despite the good intentions of peacebuilding scholars, attempts to include difference in peacebuilding are having the unintended consequence of further excluding those considered different. Indeed, the lack of reflection on the way difference is theorised leads to problematic assumptions: differences are considered as existing independently of the actions of peacebuilding interveners, recipients and scholars, and identities and cultures are approached as essential and static phenomena. ‘Difference’ is thus understood as intrinsic to the Other. In addition, current approaches embracing difference often implicitly take the international/Western as the standard from which other actors and values are ‘different from’. As such, problematic binaries and traces of colonial distinctions (e.g. liberal-illiberal or developed-underdeveloped) are reinforced.

This workshop that will take place from 26–27 June 2017 at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research (University of Duisburg-Essen) seeks to explore and critically engage with the way difference is being used in the theory and practice of peacebuilding. In particular, we invite papers that address one or several of the following themes:

  • How is identity-difference created during peacebuilding interventions? What practices lead to the assumption of peacebuilding as an encounter between ‘different’ groups?
  • Through what mechanisms do peacebuilding practitioners and scholars assume identities and differences, and with what consequences?
  • How do peacebuilding recipients manipulate and influence the perceptions of difference? How do they negotiate, resist or confirm the categories of peacebuilding practitioners and scholars?
  • How can we study ‘difference’ in peacebuilding without essentialising it? Is it possible to recognise and respect ‘difference’ without reproducing the Self-Other binary?
  • Can and should ‘difference’ be incorporated in peacebuilding interventions? Can ‘difference’ retain its emancipatory appeal without being normalised as another peacebuilding variable?

Deadline for abstract: 26 April 2017.
Please email your abstract (200–300 words) to Xavier Mathieu ( and Pol Bargués-Pedreny (

Funding: The Centre for Global Cooperation Research will cover travel and accommodation costs for the invited participants.

Workshop outcome: We will submit a selection of the papers as a Special Issue to the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding.

Call for Papers