Researching Violent Societies Workshop
Role and Function of action Research in the Management of Violent
Ethnic and Religious Conflicts in Nigeria
Dr. Isaac Olawale Albert
to my work as a Lecturer at the Institute of African Studies, University
of Ibadan, I serve as the Research and Intervention Officer to Academic
Associate PeaceWorks in Lagos, Nigeria. This non-governmental organisation
has vast experience in the area of managing violent ethnic and religious
conflicts in Nigeria. The organisation has contributed immensely to
the de-escalation of the violent conflicts in Zango-Kataf, Wukari,
Tafawa Balewa, lgbo-Ora, Ugep and is currently working on the Ife-Modakeke
crisis in lle-Ife with grants provided by the British Council and
the United States Agency for International Development. All these
conflicts, except the ones in Ugep and lgbo-Ora, were widely publicised
by the international news media [most especially the CNNI though our
intervention works are usually done "in the closets" for obvious reasons.
Before we physically intervene in any conflict situation, we usually
carry out an "action research" in the affected community. Such research
programmes are sometimes carried out in manners different from how
the mainstream researches are done. The researcher takes more time
to get at the needs of the parties to the conflict as different from
their positions and interests while at the same time avoiding being
seen as a party to the violent conflict or a biased assessor of the
paper will discuss how action or pro-active research, which is actually
necessary for informing sound conflict management, is different from
mainstream academic research. The paper will discuss how AAPW has
been carrying out its action researches - how the research teams are
constituted; the kind of data the researchers go after; their interdisciplinary
and multidisciplinary methods of data collection; the ethical considerations
of the fieldwork; how the researchers analyse their data and how the
research is reported. I shall also discuss how the research report
is "processed, repackaged and digested" during a conflict analysis
seminar attended by a technical team, usually consisting members of
the Nigeria Corps of Mediators and Consultants of AAPW. Such a seminar
is usually a first step to determining the issues and shadow figures
in the conflict; it is also meant for determining the social credentials
of those to intervene in the conflict and what intervention methods
would produce the best results under the prevalent situations. To
what extent has this pragmatic approach to conflict management been
productive in the unique Nigerian situations?
I expect both
students of Peace and Conflict Studies as well as conflict managers
around the world to benefit from the content of this paper. It is
therefore necessary for me to ask some fundamental questions. One
of such questions have to do with how the action researcher is trained.
To what extent have Departments of Peace and Conflict Studies realised
that their students require formal lessons in field methods, data
analysis and report writing than they normally get from their essay
Trauma Research - Their Benefit or Mine?
This paper addresses
some of the ethical questions encountered when doing clinical research
involving a severely psychologically traumatised population, in an
unstable society under chaotic conditions. The project involves civilian
women from Bosnia; victims of the ethnic cleansing, mass rape policy
and the four year siege of Sarajevo.
- These people
are psychologically, socially and politically vulnerable. Many live
in refugee settlements, with their future still on the negotiating
table. Without immediate and tangible value to them, research can
be seen as taking advantage of a weakened population.
- Those having
experienced extreme trauma are exposed to situations that could
reactivate their traumatic experiences.
- In a post-war
society with a ruined economy, research is considered a luxury -
arguably, material needs have far greater priority.
- Local professionals
performing research have to rely on international partnerships for
funding. The outside partners inevitably have the greatest influence
over the projects.
- Research control
such as ethical approval, is inadequate due to non-existent or not
fully functioning regulatory bodies.
Given the considerable
restrictions on research in such circumstances, the validity of results
can be disputed. This poses the question: Should research be embarked
upon if it is not performed in accordance with mainstream standards.
for empowerment in a divided Cambodia
Helen Jenks Clarke
is ethnically homogenous, during the past 30 years almost continuous
war and political tensions have divided the country. The genocide
of the Khmer Rouge period followed a five-year civil war. Continuing
conflicts between various ruling factions and Khmer Rouge remnants
over the 20 years since the defeat of the KR have deepened the divisions
within Cambodian society, continuing to disempower the population.
The paper looks at a number of common assumptions about the nature
of contemporary Cambodia deriving from the civil war, the KR revolution,
and post-war experiences. Research projects on Socio-Cultural Vulnerabilities
and Coping Strategies (SCVCS), on Local Capacities for Nonviolence
(LCN), and on the concept of community in Cambodia examine the basis
of contemporary community violence and challenge common assumptions
made about war-torn societies. In the context of work on community
based security, this research may help Cambodians to reclaim their
knowledge and empower them to take effective action. The roles and
functions of research identified include research to establish social
knowledge (or in some cases to re-establish this knowledge), to reconstruct
history and research to provide a basis for taking action.
the viability of War-torn Society Project (WSP). Participatory action
research in a stateless situation: the case of the WSP Somali programme.
Ahmed Yusuf Farah
In spite of
the fact that War-torn Societies Project methodology was directly
derived from some of the basic ideas and experiences of PAR, what
makes WSP methodology different and unique is that it represents a
quantum leap from a research methodology designed to be implemented
at the micro level to implementation at the macro level, addressing
broad issues by providing a neutral space and involving a variety
of actors, internal and external, who play key roles at the macro
level. Four years (1994-1998) of participatory action-research carried
out by the War-torn Societies Project (WSP) in four carefully selected
countries (Eritrea, Mozambique, Guatemala and Somalia) have produced
innovative and practical projects, the operational experience and
an overview of the project have been produced.
Being the last
of the country projects the WSP Somali Programme will last longer
than its predecessors. The main research phase is winding up in Puntland
and the Somaliland project is now fully operational. Assessments of
the approach and achievements of the Somali Programme contained in
the WSP research products is thus necessarily provisional, and must
refer mainly to the first crucial phase of the first sub-national
project in Puntland.
This paper will
examine methodological issues highlighting distinctive and innovative
elements in the WSP global project and the viability of the decentralised
approach adopted by the WSP Somali program in its research activities
in the relatively stable de facto political entities of Puntland and
Somaliland. Moreover, the lessons learned from the WSP global project
in the application of PAR as tool for rebuilding will also be examined
in the context of the WSP Somali Program. In spite of these methodological
issues, the paper will also explore ethical issues pertaining to the
application of participatory action research in a stateless situation.
you say, say nothing' - systematically distorted communication and
research in Northern Ireland
One of the most
important sociological contributions to our understanding of Northern
Irish society is the identification of the phenomenon of 'Telling'
(Burton, 1978 and Harris, 1972). 'Telling' refers to what happens
when indigenous strangers meet in Northern Ireland. Typically, they
draw on a series of signs and cues to 'tell' each other's religious
affiliation. Having successfully 'told', the strangers then enter
into what Habermas has called systematically distorted communication'
. Despite the salience of Burton (1978) and Harris (1972) in the canon
of work on Northern Ireland, little thought has been given to the
implications of the phenomenon of 'Telling' for interview-based research
on conflict by indigenous social scientists (Brewer, 1994 and Donnan
and McFarlane 1983 are partial exceptions). The proposed paper draws
on selected material from research that the author conducted on sectarianism
and trade unionism in the Derry shirt Industry to illustrate both
the difficulties posed for indigenous researchers by the phenomenon
of 'Telling' and the virtues of reflexivity as a means of dealing
with these difficulties.
Sri Lankan and Kashmiri guerrilla movements - Personal Reflections
armed conflicts can be best understood by researching both the state
and the non-state actors participating in a conflict. Often insurgent
groups are hard to study because most successful groups observe the
strictest rules of secrecy. Lack of good case studies on insurgent
groups have impeded efforts by national and international policymakers
to end armed conflicts. Even the few researchers engaged in studying
these groups at an empirical level face difficulties because research
methods are either not well developed or not known to the researcher
on the ground.
The bulk of
researchers study these groups without visiting the theaters of conflict
and draw their information either from media reports or literature
released by the insurgents, their sponsors, governments or human rights/humanitarian
NGOs. Insurgent leadership, organisation, operations, motivation,
technology, strategies and tactics are best studied by interviewing
serving and former members of these groups as well as group specialists
in governments responsible either for attriting or supporting these
groups. The researcher's point of view will often determine the level
of access to the principal protagonists.
This paper delineates
the research methods adopted to document Sri Lankan and Kashmiri guerrilla
movements and the ethical issues arising by the study of these groups.
impermeable identity wall: the study of violent conflicts by "insiders"
Tamar S Herman
is meant to define and analyze several dilemmas inherent in the conduct
of empirical research of inter-communal conflict by social scientists
who are themselves on one side of the conflict. Based on the presenter's
recent experience in leading a research team that examined Jewish
Israeli peace groups and peace activity carried out jointly by Israelis
and Palestinians, it is suggested here that the specific identity
of the researchers is an ever-present intervening factor, and that
it has its pros and cons in different stages of the research. Researchers
who belong to one of the sides of the conflict are apparently best
qualified for conducting the data collection, at least on their own
side. They are often more proficient in the language than researchers
from the outside, are more familiar with the cultural context, have
better access to primary resources and informants, and are somewhat
less susceptible to manipulation by their interviewees. On the other
hand, being involved, and even if they are highly critical of their
own side of the conflict (which is often the case), they are less
capable than "outsiders" in getting through to the other side. Moreover,
when they do get through, the interaction often replicates the power
relations between the two sides to the conflict. The identity of the
"insiders" turns out to be particularly problematic at the analysis
stage of the study: unlike "outsiders" they are inescapably caught
between psychological and social demands to take the side of their
community in the conflict on the one hand, and their professional
obligation to academic impartiality on the other. In their effort
to resolve this dilemma, they often tend to be either overly or insufficiently
critical of their community's role in the conflict. Last but not least,
insiders' deep familiarity with the details of the case makes it very
difficult for them to see the overall picture objectively. They therefore
tend to over-emphasize the case's unique aspects while understating
its comparable ones. This tendency reduces their ability to make the
most of the data they so successfully collected on the theoretical
Light Weapons Argument: Logic Dictates but Data Talks
of small arms and light weapons is believed by some to be an important
factor contributing to regional instability, obstructed development,
and a blurring border between military insurgency and criminality.
Establishing the descriptive epidemiology of patterns of injury observed
in heavily militarised settings is a research approach that can usefully
examine this assertion. The International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) provides assistance to victims of armed conflict. This involvement,
which often occurs over years or even decades, has provided the occasion
to develop and implement some simple data collection instruments.
At times these have been employed in unique, focused studies while
in others they have been part of an institutional effort to collect
data on people injured by weapons and cared for under the auspices
of the ICRC. Examples of both of these will be briefly discussed,
with emphasis on common constraints, potential limitations and biases,
and their effects on interpretation of results.
a Prophet in whose Land?
paper is dedicated to giving an insight of the motivations underlying
the researcher who is working in violent/divided societies. How our
conflictive humanness is inevitably linked to the subject; and how
our prejudices, therefore, can affect the research itself. The hermeneutic
phenomenological approach is here considered the most appropriate
for human science research, for it serves to establish a human relationship
with the Other of the research - dealing with the methodological and
ethical aspects of it. The author brings up the relationship between
the problematic question -nationalism- and his personal motivations.
Presented as a metaphoric pilgrimage, he faces some problematic aspects
(like foreignness, language, identity) and the researcher position
regarding human research - always from his own personal experience.
the people for psychiatric biological research in Bosnia and Herzegovina
during and after the war
will mainly focus on personal experience in accessing people for psychiatric
biological research with emphasis on psychiatric genetics. During
the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the whole scientific and research
system collapsed and implementation of research projects was impossible.
On one side were researchers left on their own without any scientific
or material support and all projects were carried out practically
thanks to the enthusiasm of a few people. On the other side were highly
traumatized population with minimal social and political support,
which make them suspicious and noncooperative. Researchers were faced
with the two main difficulties accessing the people for researcher
purposes and accessing the people from abroad for international cooperation.
After the war, the main obstacle for linkage and association genetics
studies in complex psychiatric disorders are also big demographic
changes since almost every family is disrupted. At the same time,
outside collaborators are not interested in setting up this kind of
research projects. To cope with all these difficulties it would be
very important to establish network of researchers who used to work
or are working in divided societies in order to exchange experience
for the People
At the end of
the 20th century which is characterised by many more fierce conflicts
all around the globe, researching into the root of the matter appears
more than ever to be at the core of any possible solution to the crisis.
However it is
not simply enough to conduct research, rather, the way in which it
is conducted is very important - both ethical issues and the methods
used are crucial to the good outcome of the research. Examples abound,
especially in the rwandese historical context of research studies
and researchers who contributed to the escalation of the violence,
and thus deteriorated the already precarious situation of the people
on whose behalf the researchers were supposed to work - allegedly
for the betterment of their socio-political condition. A look into
the case history of Rwanda will better illustrate the importance of
accountability and democratisation of the research, for after all,
researching in violent societies ought to be men-centred and allow
room for the research community to search for a solution to their
problems. The researcher's reaction must not supplant the people's
opinion. Therefore the researcher must like contacts, be interested
in the people's way of living, their concerns, their joy and hope
for the future - not just be interested in the research itself. This
is the best way for a researcher to identify with the community being
researched, and thus become accountable to them. In my paper I recommend
a pre-field study of the community under research, and will develop
the qualities that are required from a researcher, plus some techniques
used in the media to report in certain circumstances, as well as giving
some examples and applications from life in Rwanda.
Size Fits All? - Focused Comparison and Policy-Relevant Research of
argues for the need to research violent societies through a 'focused
comparative' approach. This is crucial if research is to transcend
academic discussions and lead to policies at nonstate, state and interstate
levels directed at the appeasement of, and eventual peacebuilding
processes in, violent societies. International organisations and NGOs
are particularly important consumers of research and subsequent actors
in peacebuilding activities: While the former tends to develop near-universal
mechanisms and approaches to address violent societies region- or
world-wide, the latter tends to operate in the context of local environments.
Nevertheless, both need to focus on general approaches within a local
context. In co-operation, they can address common challenges of divided
societies as well as the specifics conditioned by each society's particular
political, economic and socio-cultural fabric. Thus, as the analyst
of a specific society and the informant of internal and external security
providers, the researcher needs to focus in his/her work on both the
particularities of specific case studies and general characteristics
of violent and divided societies elsewhere. Such "focused comparison"
produces knowledge that distinguishes the general from the particular
- crucial information for the development of effective responses by
external and local actors.
of accountability and participation in an action research project
in Northern Ireland
This paper explores
the advantages and disadvantages of using a participatory model of
action research in terms of how such a model renders the researcher
accountable ethically and practically to the researched population.
The model of participation used in a project designed to investigate
the experience and effects of armed conflict on a population is described.
The model involved members of the researched population (from both
sides of the conflict) in the management of the project. The operational
logistics and issues of implementing such a model are outlined in
terms of the demands on the research team, and the impact on researcher
accountability is evaluated. Particular reference is made to the effect
on forms of consent used in the project, to issues of ownership of
data and to the way research dissemination and publication was influenced
by the structure of the project. The value of involving those with
personal expertise, rather than research expertise in project management
is examined and lessons for this researcher's future research design,
methodologies and ethical, legal and academic practice are suggested.
Politics of Phenomenology: Research when nothing is neutral
particular those from academic institutions, tend to assume that what
they are doing is simply describing phenomena - that is, they are
recording accounts of what has happened or is happening. This paper
explores some of the methodological problems inherent in attempting
non-partisan research in divided and violent societies. In such situations,
what would otherwise be regarded as basic questions of fact necessary
to describe the phenomena, may have serious political connotations.
The use of otherwise basic (apparently neutral) academic language
can have political implications. The questions this paper seeks to
address include: how can research be undertaken in settings in which
no question (let alone any answer) is free from (apparently partisan)
political implications ? how can research be reported when no statement
of findings will not support (or conflict with) the political position
of one side ? how can researchers asses the credibility of sources
(documentary or oral) when (probably) there is no source which is
not in some way politically partial ? how can sources be identified
when information is given on the basis of assured confidentiality
? If everyone views the researcher as a potential ally (or, at least,
as the source of a report potentially supporting their position),
how can the researcher gather, assess and publish research findings
? and, if the findings are not to the liking of one (or any) parties,
how can the researcher return to the field for further research ?
in conflict: conceptual transferability and comprehension in violent
and divided societies.
is the product, not only of my experience, but also of "rains of ideas"
from other INCORE staff. It is intended to open discussion on the
challenges of doing and presenting research in and about situations
which are divided and conflicted. Translation of words is difficult
enough, but how can concepts be conveyed across languages and cultures?
There are usually disagreements about what to call the place and the
events - is there a war in Northern Ireland, or troubles in the six
counties? Even if a given concept exists across the divide, it may
have very different nuances, experiences and emotions attached to
it. Perhaps more basically, how do "research subjects" understand
their role and ours, and what will be done with the results? Drawing
on our experience and yours, this will be an invitation to observe
your research from a distance and look for possible areas of misunderstanding.