An Ethnographic Approach to Peacebuilding

Understanding Local Experiences in Transitional States

By Gearoid Millar

© 2014 – Routledge

198 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781138953062
pub: 2015-07-23
US Dollars$48.95
Hardback: 9780415870351
pub: 2014-05-06
US Dollars$155.00

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About the Book

This book aims to outline and promote an ethnographic approach to evaluating international peacebuilding interventions in transitional states.

While the evaluation of peacebuilding and transitional justice efforts has been a growing concern in recent years, too often evaluations assess projects based on locally irrelevant measures, reinforce the status quo distribution of power in transitional situations, and uncritically accept the implicit conceptions of the funders, planners, and administrators of such projects. This book argues that evaluating the effects of peacebuilding interventions demands an understanding of the local and culturally variable context of intervention.

Throughout the book, the author draws on real world examples from extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone to argue that local experiences should be considered the primary measure of a peacebuilding project’s success. An ethnographic approach recognizes diversity in conceptions of peace, justice, development and reconciliation and takes local approaches and local critiques of the international agenda seriously. It can help to empower local actors, hold the international peacebuilding industry accountable to its supposed beneficiaries, and challenge the Western centric ideas of what peace entails and how peacebuilding is achieved.

This book will be of much interest to students and scholars of peacebuilding, peace and conflict studies, transitional justice, African politics, ethnography, International Relations and security studies, as well as practitioners working in the field.


"Millar’s well thought through and structured study fulfils the important task of translating many previous theoretical insights and critiques into potential practices." Oliver P. Richmond, University of Manchester

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Introduction to the Ethnographic Approach 1. Peacebuilding, Empowerment, and Evaluation 2. Historical, Political, and Social Context Part 2: The Four Pillars of the Ethnographic Approach 3. Peacebuilding as Experiential 4. Ethnographic Preparation 5. Local Engagement 6. Appraisal of One’s Own Implicit Assumptions Part 3: The Details and Challenges of Incorporating the Ethnographic Approach 7. Challenges to the Ethnographic Approach 8. The Distinctive Strengths of the Ethnographic Approach 9. Conclusion

About the Author

Gearoid Millar is Lecturer in Sociology at the Institute for Conflict, Transition, and Peace Research (ICTPR) at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

About the Series

Studies in Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding

This series publishes innovative research into the connections between insecurity and under-development in fragile states, and into situations of violence and insecurity more generally. It adopts a multidisciplinary approach to the study of a variety of issues, including the changing nature of contemporary armed violence (conflict), efforts to foster the conditions that prevent the outbreak or recurrence of such violence (development), and strategies to promote peaceful relations on the communal, societal and international level (peacebuilding).

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Africa / General
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General