International and Intra-state Conflict Research



Constructive Transformation: Studying Cases of Political Incorporation. Civil war and other kinds of violent internal strife often end only when one side achieves victory over the other by use of force. Often these victories, if they come at all, come only after years of violence and bloodshed. Rarely do they result in the kinds of integrated socio-economic systems that are crucial to building lasting peace, especially where ethnic, cultural, or other identity-based differences are at the heart of the conflict.  There are, however, instances where the parties to such conflicts decide to constructively engage with each other through negotiation, third party mediation, or other kinds of de-escalatory techniques, sometimes alone, sometimes together, and sometimes with the help of an external third-party. In these instances, which include the ANC’s rise to political power in South Africa, the moderation of the Renamo rebel group in Mozambique, and the incorporation of the FMLN into the political process in El Salvador, the groups that had challenged state actors through violent means shifted their tactics toward less violent means of waging their struggle. 

PARCC, in association with The Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, is involved in a project to investigate these ‘constructive transformations.’ We are interested in when, why, and how violent opposition movements and those they are challenging, take steps towards peaceful political incorporation. We are particularly interested in mapping: 1) the processes and dynamics that lead groups that are challenging existing power structures to engage in violent struggle, 2) the processes and dynamics that contribute to the de-escalation of violent struggle and the participation of challengers in peaceful political activities, 3) the dynamics that sustain and nurture this transformation.  Our efforts have resulted in the edited volume, “Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding: Moving from Violence to Sustainable Peace,” which was co-authored by Bruce W. Dayton and Louis Kriesberg and published by Routledge in 2009.  The book provides a conceptual overview to the process of constructive transformation, an empirical framework for conducting analyses of this process, a set of cases that are analyzed using the framework, and a review of the lessons-learned from these cases.

Memories of Violence and the Rhetoric of Commemoration at Ground Zero. The purpose of this research is to analyze various public debates and conflicts over how best to design memorial structures and revitalize communal space in the wake of September 11, 2001. Research, including interviews with officials and observations of rebuilding progress were conducted at the site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan for the purpose of studying how communities and institutions commemorate the past in order to overcome periods of violence and conflict.  In addition, textual data relating to the rebuilding efforts (such as publicity materials pertaining to construction and urban design) were analyzed.  The study’s results will be presented in the monograph-length for publication in an interdisciplinary journal that features work on the politics of community memory and historical conflict (such as Memory Studies). Bradford Vivian, Communication and Rhetorical Studies