1st Edition

Emotional Practices and Listening in Peacebuilding Partnerships The Invisibility Cloak

By Pernilla Johansson Copyright 2022
    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book analyzes the everyday emotions of international peacebuilding practitioners as practices that hinder – and potentially help – them to listen more receptively to their local partners. It develops ‘‘emotional practices’’ as an analytical concept by integrating critical feminist perspectives insights into practice approaches.

    Effective peacebuilding requires international actors to listen to local partners. This sounds simple enough but often fails in practice. Examining how everyday emotions help or hinder internationals’ receptivity to local perspectives, the book challenges the conventional wisdom that emotions do not matter – at least not those of internationals who are the privileged party in peacebuilding partnerships. The book is based on interviews with peacebuilding practitioners, donors and researchers working in the Balkans and East Africa, as well as in the UK, the US and Sweden, and gives a detailed and no-nonsense description of daily dilemmas regarding listening and partnerships. Johansson provides concrete recommendations of how internationals can practice personally, organizationally, and geopolitically to build emotional capacity that will help them listen better to local actors.

    Drawing on the author’s expertise in political science and peace and conflict research, this volume speaks to scholars in international relations, political theory, sociology, cultural studies, development studies, critical theory, and anthropology.

    Chapter 1 The Listening Puzzle: Why are internationals so bad at listening to local partners, even though they want to and know they should?

    Chapter 2 Emotions Matter: Tense, stressed, and anxious internationals playing contradictory games

    Chapter 3 Orienting Emotions: Proud, achieving, and responsible internationals listening within limits

    Chapter 4 The Invisibility Cloak: Hiding privilege – hindering partnership

    Chapter 5 How Can the Subject Learn to Listen? Practicing purposeful failure and dealing with feelings

    Conclusion Emotional practices – privilege - hope


    Dr Pernilla Johansson has worked professionally in civil society peacebuilding since her first assignment in Kosovo in 2004, including several senior management positions. She has a PhD in political science from the University of California, Irvine, and has published both academically and popularly on peacebuilding, democracy, embodied practices, cycling activism in LA, and peace activism in Serbia. Her focus areas in research and practice involve learning and culture in organizations working for social change. Since April 2021 Dr Johansson heads the Swedish aid agency's center for capacity building, Sida Partnership Forum.

    "As politicians we all know, that feelings can make courage flow. But feminists have also faced, how comfort keeps the lines in place. To be in power is to feel, that your view is the one that's real. This makes it hard to hear the other, you may not even think to bother. But peace needs partners that provoke - so read this and throw off The Invisibility Cloak."

    Margot Wallström, former Swedish Foreign Minister (2014-19) and former Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (2010-12)

    "The "invisibility cloak" - I hadn't even realized I'd been wrapping myself in it. Pernilla Johansson, a peacebuilding, social justice practicioner with years of on-the-ground experience, shows here how this seemingly professionalized, unemotional garb blocks external actors' ability to listen effectively to grassroots partners. As I read each revealing chapter, I made lists in my head of all my colleagues and students I hope will read this book - reflectively."

    Cynthia Enloe, author of "The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging Persistent Patriarchy"

    "A novel approach to the study of the long-recognized gap between internationals and locals in the field of peacebuilding. In this engaging book, Johansson argues that the key to overcome this gap is to understand the practices of, and obstacles for, true listening."

    Isak Svensson, professor, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University

    "Pernilla Johansson succeeds in something extremely uncommon in research on peacemaking and development work: she originally and thoughtfully interweaves her own experience in international aid work with a thoughtful analysis inspired by drama and the arts and thoroughly designed and researched political sociology. The result is providing us with new and surprising insights on the reasons why so much international aid is not producing the results sought for. But that’s not all. The book also tells us what we can do to make it better, practically and in dialogue with the people on the ground, and all this in a tone that is anything but scholarly abstract or overweening. A little gem in the masses of ‘how-to-build-peace’ literature."

    Dr Catherine Goetze, University of Tasmania, Australia. 

    "This book is a reminder of the difficult art of listening. It is something that affects how international actors relate to local communities, for instance in international peacebuilding operations. This work demonstrates how more genuine partnerships can be build. Thus it is a book of significance for humanitarian undertakings as well as development projects. It also opens new fields of inquiry for peace research."

    Peter Wallensteen, Senior Professor, Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and Professor Emeritus, University of Notre Dame, USA.