Conflict and Peace Building in Divided Societies: Responses to Ethnic Violence

Conflict and Peace Building in Divided Societies: Responses to Ethnic Violence

Conflict and Peace Building in Divided Societies: Responses to Ethnic Violence

Conflict and Peace Building in Divided Societies: Responses to Ethnic Violence

Synopsis

This groundbreaking book provides an integrated account of ethnic, nationality and sectarian conflicts in the contemporary world including the role of collective myths, the mass media and the ethnification of identities as contributors to ethnic conflicts and wars. In addition to many examples from the last two decades, Oberschall provides a comprehensive overview of the conflict and peace processes in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and the Middle East.

Oberschall analyzes:

  • peace building through constitutional design
  • power sharing governance
  • disarming combatants, post-accord security and refugee return
  • transitional justice (truth and reconciliation commissions, war crimes tribunals)
  • economic and social reconstruction in a multiethnic society.

In addition to many examples from the last two decades, Oberschall provides a comprehensive overview of the conflict and peace processes for Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and Israel-Palestinians. He argues that insurgency creates contentious issues over and above the original root causes of the conflict, that the internal divisions within the adversaries trigger conflicts that jeopardize peace processes, and that security and rebuilding a failed state are a precondition for lasting peace and a democratic polity.

This book will be essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and academics interested in the fields of peace studies, war and conflict studies, ethnic studies and political sociology.

Excerpt

I started writing this book in my mind when Yugoslavia was breaking up in 1991–2. I had studied and written about the by-and-large peaceful change in Eastern Europe from communism to democracy, and I had also written about the failed democracy movement in China in 1989. The different courses and outcomes required an explanation. When peace implementation got under way after Dayton, the travails of the peace process in the Balkans and elsewhere focused my attention on peace building. Excellent books and publications on international conflict management and ethnic conflicts had been written and more were published every month. I learned a lot reading them; nevertheless I believe the link between the conflict side and the peace building side of the whole story had been downplayed, and that is how I developed the “conflict and conciliation dynamic” which serves as my unifying theme throughout.

I owe a debt to a 1998 grant from the National Science Foundation for research on “Cooperation and conflict: encounters between Europeans and non-Europeans” and from the United States Institute of Peace in 1998 to study “Ethno-national conflict and its prevention.” I am also thankful for having gotten a Fulbright fellowship in the New Century Scholars Program in 2002–3 whose theme was “Addressing sectarian, ethnic, and cultural conflicts.” I am a firm believer in field work for complementing other modes of social science research. These grants enabled me to travel, observe, and interview in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia in the summer of 1998 and in Ireland, north and south, in the summer of 2003. I am very much indebted to the academics, political leaders, media professionals, and just ordinary people that I interviewed and consulted during these research trips. Unfortunately plans for field work in the West Bank in association with Israeli and Palestinian scholars fell through when the al-Aqsa intifada erupted in the fall of 2000.

I thank Professor Mari Fitzduff at INCORE at the University of Ulster in Derry (now at Brandeis University), who kindly hosted me in Northern Ireland, and Professor Boldizar Jaksic and Ivana Spasic at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, who hosted me in Belgrade and helped arrange interviews. Professor Ivana Vuletic at my university was indispensable for a content analysis of news stories on ethnic conflict in Bosnia.

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