CPS Research Strategy 2010-2013
The Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) is an inter-faculty teaching and research entity at the University of Tromsø (UiT). Established in 2002, with direct budgetary allocation from the Norwegian parliament, it is the only university centre focusing on peace and conflict studies in Norway. Its mandate is to explore and promote non-violent ways of handling conflicts and peaceful co-existence. In fulfilment of this mandate, it runs an international Master's degree programme in Peace and Conflict Transformation (MPCT), initiates and facilitates multi-layered research projects, organises conferences, workshops and outreach programs in the intersection of conflict transformation, peace-building and development.
Until recently, CPS activities have mostly revolved around the MPCT programme. The new Research Strategy is a framework toward a full realisation of the strategic goals and mandate of the CPS: running a degree programme and promoting cutting-edge research and outreach activities. In this regard, the Research Strategy outlines high priority research themes and a framework for engaging policymakers and practitioners locally and globally. It initiates broad ideas and plans that enhance multi-level interplay between knowledge production and dissemination, teaching and research, and theory and practice within the evolving field of peace and conflict studies.
I: Towards A Research Strategy
This is the first comprehensive attempt at developing a research strategy at CPS. It involves a step-by-step mobilisation of ideas and resources towards realisation of the centre's mandate. All the outlined research themes are mostly unfunded, making this a transitional phase for testing ideas and mobilising resources. And this shall mean optimal use of the limited resources at CPS and existing networks for generating external research funds for new fellowships and projects, such as a second phase of the joint CPS-NUPI DDR project.
UiTs Strategy (2009-2013) is a framework for developing a driving force for competence, growth and innovation in the High-North. This competence includes the ability to facilitate international peace and solidarity work through research and education in the developing world. CPS can be a critically important partner in actualising these strategic aims.
CPS is an inter-faculty entity with a small staff and mostly harnesses resources from other entities at UiT and beyond for teaching, supervision and other scholarly activities. This unique experience in establishing academic partnerships will be brought to bear on the diverse activities in fulfilling UiTs strategic aims in internationalisation. For example, CPS students are actively recruited from Nordic and non-Nordic countries, including Central and Southern Europe, US, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Not only has this recruitment strategy created an unusually interesting and enabling milieu for cross-cultural teaching and learning experiences, it has made global issues a focus of teaching and research. In other words, CPS is relatively well-placed to help UiT meets its international ambitions aims within the north-south and south-south axis, as well as the north-north angle of the Nordområde satsningen.
Hitherto, the peace research field was dominated by three independent research institutes (PRIO, NUPI, CMI) and UiOs unit for human rights. All the three research institutes have strong credentials in research, combining academic excellence with applied work for governmental and international organizations. And they bring these accomplishments to the mobilisation of research funds. But, CPS too brings critical assets to the field. CPS is the only university entity with a focus on peace research and peace education in Norway: (i) has collaborative experience and a locus at a bredde university; and (ii) runs an interdisciplinary master's degree programme, with a worldwide recruitment profile. The alumni are nearly 100 people from almost different 40 countries. Both continuing and former students have proved highly successful in attracting study grants from many institutions in and outside Norway and, in so doing, providing added recognition to activities at CPS.
Consequently, CPS shall build upon these strategic assets to consolidate and enhance its competitiveness in resource mobilisation, research output and student recruitment. This means focusing upon issues incomprehensively addressed by other institutions, such as the location and historical experiences in the Arctic region. State and nation building, and northern Norway's wartime and post-war experiences are all issues that could distinguish the research profile at CPS.
The Arctic region is a vast land area and sparsely populated, with a tough climate. It has a chequered history of ethnic and cultural relations, especially problems of resource entitlement, asymmetrical inter-state relations, recognition, oppression and border policing. The experiences in resolving these problems and producing new (or redefining) ethnic, gender and broader inter-personal relations are all relevant for peace research. This because they bring into sharp focus the historicity and inevitability of conflicts in human relationships, and draw attention to the spaces conflicts open up for effecting transformations in relationships between individuals, groups and institutions.
Becoming a knowledge hub
Ideas inspire, guide and sustain policy action. But, such policy ideas need to be grounded in rigorous and applied research to enhance reliability and legitimacy. In the years ahead, CPS shall strive to be such a hub for policy ideas on global transformations (e.g. climate change, human security and human rights - including the right to development), which are altering the parameters for resource control and sustainable livelihoods in northern Norway, the Barents Region, the Circumpolar Region, the Arctic and distant regions in the Global South. These global processes already inform foreign policies and domestic politics; they are changing geo-political relations, energy and transportation politics, and food production and migration patterns, as well as the interplay between international and national law and state and non-state actors. These nested sub-regional, regional and global processes are also covered by study programmes and research agendas at UiT. The proposal to initiate a Bi-Annual Arctic Peace Symposium and establish a professorial Chair has similar intent.
Indeed, creating synergies between the MPCT programme, proposed research themes, and outreach activities will help develop CPS as a knowledge hub. It will enhance the role of CPS as a scholarly contributor to debates and policy initiatives in conflict transformation. It is therefore necessary to establish institutional linkages both in the Barents and Arctic regions, and the global south, alongside deepening internal UiT networks. Equal attention too has to be given to cooperation with state and non-state policy actors, nationally and internationally.
CPS academic staff (i.e. Academic Director, Adjunct Professor(s)/Associate Professor, and Study Programme Coordinator) shall contribute to the realisation of these strategic aims. Funding will be sought from the central University administration and other external bodies for the proposed Resident Peace Scholar and Visiting Fellow initiatives to strengthen CPS research capabilities. The same strategic thinking will characterise the search for more grants for MA students (for pre-PhD fellows) and PhD and Post-Doc. fellowships.
The triangular relationship between research and teaching, and peace and development dialogues
This strategy envisages a multi-stranded relationship between teaching and research, and between research, peace and development dialogues. All MPCT courses (obligatory and optional) shall reflect the prioritised research themes and thereby strengthen the research-teaching nexus. This also has the potential of stimulating MPCT students to situate their thesis projects within the research themes.
PhD students will form a vital core of CPS staff and be a driving force in the actualisation of the research strategy. Stipends, Fellowship projects and related announcements will be anchored in the outlined research themes. University stipends will be sought in partnership with other UiT entities. Already, CPS is working with UiT partners to launch an international PhD programme to meet a keenly felt need among MPCT graduates.
The evolving research agenda involves both basic and applied dimensions. The principal target groups are the local and international scholars in peace and conflict studies, as well as policy-makers and practitioners. The latter are "connectors" in their societies; they mobilise individuals, groups and opinions to transform and resolve conflicts, build and sustain peace. Since CPS research aim at both informing and influencing practice, knowledge dissemination will be customised to meet needs of specific audiences. MPCT programme courses, capacity building programme, support to documentaries, the Norwegian Peace Film Award, conferences and seminars are potential outlets for knowledge production and dissemination.
II: Research Agenda
Societies emerging from protracted armed conflicts are variously characterised by proliferation of small arms, physical destruction, forced migration, mass poverty, political volatility, psycho-social trauma, altered gender relations and loss of social capital (i.e. the trust and confidence people have in each other). These challenges post-war policy actions to address these multi-faceted problems; respond to immediate humanitarian needs, reduce violence and set the pace for long-term reconstruction and development. This is the same as creating the necessary conditions to stem a relapse into violence in the post-war era, while maintaining a focus on future societal development. Such comprehensive efforts at restoring war torn societies have also been recognised as a key element in reducing global instability, insecurity and poverty in the 21st century.
To help deepen knowledge on how post-war processes emerge and unfold in interaction with internal and external issues, the research activities shall tentatively have the following focus:
This research builds on the just completed joint CPS-NUPI project - "The political economy of DDR" - and shall mainly focus on integration. Such a research effort means moving away the narrow understanding of reintegration in the "blue prints" of development organisations for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programmes to a more broad based approach that captures the manifold processes associated with (re)integration in post-war societies. This amounts to empirical focus on the social, psychological, political and economic dimensions of integration vis-à-vis externally sponsored re-integration projects.
Sub-themes potentially include the following:
- Ex-combatants and civilian life; social belonging, vocational training and employment opportunities
- Civil-military relations; democratic governance, and capacity-building of civilian and military institutions
- Border studies; porous borders, contested identities and state-non-state relations
- International and national justice systems; crime accountability and peace processes
- War and disability; female war amputees and their struggles for livelihood and social safety
- Gendered violence; coping and reparation strategies of victims and perpetrators
- Peace accords; the narratives of deal-makers and deal-breakers
- Masculinity and weapons; gender identities and individual decisions to bear arm and to pursue a lifestyle without arms
Land matters in sustaining peace and in peace building
This research theme focuses on land and identity politics in state and nation building, with emphasis on the implications for political violence, stability and peace at different levels of society. This means interrogating land politics, legal systems and land claims in terms of indigenous and gender identities within a north-south and south-south comparative framework.
Sub-themes potentially include the following:
- Land, identity politics and recognition of Sami land rights as a reconciliation process
- Contested homelands; gendered and ethnic land politics, and rights of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) and voluntary settlers
- Land commissions: politics and effective enforcement of judicial decisions vis-à-vis peace-building
This research theme focuses on transitional justice processes as a framework for resolving conflicts, restoring social harmony and ensuring integrated social transformation. It explores transitional justice processes beyond punishment for war crimes and repairing harms to political stability and promoting socio-economic development in the post-war era. It situates conflicts in social contexts, and fosters structural changes required for accommodation, cooperation, and co-existence.
Sub-themes potentially include the following:
- Reconciliation through commissions and other traditional methods
- Retributive justice and restitution - a generation after the war ended (including Norway's experiences)
- Rebuilding and strengthening relationships - trust, solidarity and confidence among people in war-torn communities
- Victim-offender mediation and family group conferencing in Norway and other alternative conflict resolution practices around the world
Post-colonial education, modernization and peace building
After a period when research on the role of education in modernization processes has been heavily critiqued, there is an emerging post-colonial research agenda. This agenda will investigate formal education's multiple direct and indirect relations with the preconditions for democracy building and stable democracies. The assertion is that education contributes in diverse ways to a political culture characterised by a vibrant civil society, informed political parties and a strong democracy.
Sub-themes potentially include:
- The comparative relevance of education in the modernization process of Northern Norway and the larger Polar region for understanding education in centre-periphery relations, as well as peace-building in East Asia and South Asia.
Dialogical approaches to peace
This research focuses on the empirical and normative issues that underpin dialogue-based approaches to peace. Different forms of dialogue characterise mediation and negotiation, making non-violence a preferred means of peace-making. Such approaches differ from arbitration and law-based processes of settling conflicts. They are also radically different from military-based attempts at "enforcing peace" by coercive means. As peacemaking tools, dialogues are crucial also in the longer-term processes of securing and sustaining (i.e. building) peace accords, including fragile ones. The research specifically aims at generating a deeper understanding of the preconditions and the modalities that enhance the effectiveness of dialogical approaches to peace. It explores the empirical and normative issues associated with dialogical approaches.
Sub-themes potentially include the following:
- Participation and non-participation in dialogue-based peacemaking; legitimising and validating negotiators, mediators and conflicting parties
- Multi-actor and multi-track diplomacy as a prerequisite for effective peace talks, agreements and implementation
- Dialogue and struggles for recognition and representation by ethnic/minority groups
- Dialogue, historical memory and justice
Symbolic Expressions, Violence and Peace
This theme focuses on the role narrative plays in issues of war, violence and peace. This involves detailed textual and contextual studies of religion, art, literature, mass media, popular culture, myth and memory, and the way these symbolic expressions constitute a force in the formation and transformation of conflicts.
Sub-themes may include the following:
- The interrelation of fact and fiction in representations and possibly justifications of war and violence (literature, mass media, education)
- The impact of art, popular culture, and new media on processes of conflict formation, transformation, and prevention
- The role of myths, memories and popular culture in the formation of attitudes
- Spheres of mediated appearance as forms of structural violence (gender, class, race)
- Media, memory, myth: writing the past/constructing the present
- Discursive processes of border formation, maintenance and erasure
- Discourses of the other in ancient and modern myth
- The treatment of past and present conflicts in literature, new media and film
There is also an opening for research on issues involving international health and human security (north-north, north-south and south-south dependencies).