CRITICAL PEACEBUILDING AND THE DILEMMA OF DIFFERENCE: THE STIGMA OF THE ‘LOCAL’ AND THE QUEST FOR EQUALITY
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Critical peacebuilding and the dilemma of difference: the stigma of the ‘local’ and the quest for equality

 

Recent research has revealed the need to include and understand local actors in order to improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding. According to these analyses, peacebuilding could become more respectful of cultural differences thanks to a genuine engagement with the specificities of the local. Empirical studies of the ‘different’ local have thus flourished in the field with the ambition of countering the universalist tendency of traditional peacebuilding. Through the use of the concept of ‘dilemma of difference’, this article challenges this intuitive argument and argues that these approaches risk reproducing a stigma attached to the ‘different’ local. Indeed, emphasising difference in order to ensure its respect means separating and reifying ‘it’ as a deviation from the norm(al). As such, this analytical strategy is likely to recreate the stigma that contributed to the exclusion of local actors in previous peacebuilding practice and research. In contrast, I outline three strategies for studying difference differently in peacebuilding: focusing on the institutional arrangements that enabled specific differences to emerge and become visible; recognising that these differences are internal to peacebuilding (and thus an unlikely source of alternative and emancipation); and revealing the unstated and implicit Self for/from whom local difference is relevant.

Keywords: Peacebuilding, difference, local, interventions, identity, stigma

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