Violence and Insecurity
The everyday of many people around the globe is characterized by violence and by multiple and often endemic forms of insecurity. Researchers and students at DGSi look into causes, forms, actors, and structures of violence and explore the societal dynamic that violence can unleash. Violence harms people and bodies, destroys buildings and infrastructures, and disrupts social and economic networks. Albeit violence is clearly destructive and harmful, it also has a productive and formative side, can create economic opportunities, produce new (gendered) identities and enable political change. We are interested in exploring violence from different angles, and look, for example, into the link between violence and state formation or how post-conflict reconstruction and attempts to peace- and statebuilding transform violence or generate new forms of violence. We discuss the ethics of violence, and empirically explore how violence inscribes itself in bodies and memories or materialises in the built environment. Of particular interest is how violence is linked to power and domination or resistance. Core topics in DGSi are representations of violence, how such representations structure concepts of security, and how both find their expressions in military or humanitarian interventions. Such explorations contribute to an understanding of violence, of the social relations and power differences in which violence is embedded and which structure violent performances and of the ways violence can be contained or transformed.
At DGSi, we study the diversity of international interventions in the context of state-building, peacebuilding or humanitarianism. Interventions can be military in nature, but also in relation to development- or peace-related objectives. They can be formally authorised through a mandate of the United Nations, for instance, or can alternatively take place in more informal ways. Our research aims to trace the connections between a variety of actors that are involved in such interventions. They may range from local actors, such as private militias or business entrepreneurs, to external and international actors, including international organisations, foreign states, non-governmental organisations or global corporations. Often, interventions are linked to the creation of particular bodies of knowledge, their bureaucratisation and institutionalisation in global structures of power and inequality. In this, we take a special interest in the trans-national character of intervention and the ways in which such processes transcend neat categories of local vs global or peace vs war.
Approaches to Peace and Justice
The meanings of Peace and Justice, and how these goals are to be achieved, form some of the most fundamental questions of Politics and International Relations. Issues of Peace and Justice run through much of the DGSi teaching and research agenda. Peace processes raise a series of ethical and practical issues that suit case study and comparative research: who should be at the negotiating table and what are the best ways to mediate between conflict parties? But formal talks around a table are only part of the equation. Peace processes have to be seen in a wider context that looks at gender relations, the everyday usage of peace and space, and how different claims to identity and citizenship can be accommodated. Crucial too is the long-term legacy of conflict. It is here that the contest between Peace and Justice is often most visible. For some, peace can only come through the prosecution of ‘war criminals’ and ‘terrorists’. For others, the transitional justice toolkit might offer more sensitive ways of dealing with a fraught past. These issues are at the forefront of academic and policy agendas and are the subject of live debates.
Mobility and Displacement
People move around the globe and have done so for millennia. DGSi scholars study when and how movement across space becomes problematic or is seen to be so. The role of borders is a major aspect of such study. When do borders, in their material, conceptual, legal, or discursive incarnations, enable, and when do they hinder mobility? Why is movement across state borders categorised in particular ways and not others? How is displacement governed at the state, regional, and international levels and what is the role of the different actors involved in such governance? Research and teaching at DGSi looks at such questions from a temporal perspective as well. It examines the legacies of conflict in shaping notions of refugeehood, and the workings of refugee regimes over time at the level of policy and social relations. It analyses the interrelations between mobility statuses and how they affect the everyday lives of people living in conflict and post-conflict settings.
Gender and Security
Women around the world have been socialised into roles that require them to mitigate conflict. Yet, their discrimination in political representation (still present on a global scale) has meant that they are often absent from peace processes, especially when these involve questions of security. The holistic perspective on security that DGSi applies addresses human security as an important and urgent question and focusses specifically on the role of gender in it. We examine the role of women and men in peacebuilding as gendered subjects. We analyse the impact of policy shaped under the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ agenda at UN, regional, and national levels from a critical perspective. We study how gender roles shift during and after conflict on the level of the everyday, as well as the lasting impact of those shifts. We apply a feminist lens to conflict mediation and policy analysis, seeing them as radically different forms of doing politics and ending conflict.