CFP: Proposals for Panels in ASA-UK, Cambridge 2016 Peace, Protest and Political Struggle Stream

Panels in this stream will look at different contexts, strategies and outcomes of political struggle, including violent and non-violent protest, strikes, demonstrations and rebellion. Topics may include the dynamics of urban and/or rural protests, environmental protest, the role of violence in political change, state and international responses to political struggles, the transnational politics of peace, conflict and protest. Proposals are welcome from historical and contemporary cases across Africa.

Contact: Devon Curtis ( and Marta Iniguez de Heredia (


Panel 1. Conflict, State-Society Relations and the Role of the International

The understanding of conflicts as internal and intra-state has implied a view of the so-called international community as an independent even neutral peacebuilding actor. Although peacebuilding operations still work largely on the premise that they are external to the conflict they target, this view has been challenged academically. What has been problematised is the clear-cut line assumed between peace and conflict and between peacebuilding operations and the actors that impact on conflict. While these are important issues in the dynamics of conflict and conflict resolution, the panel would like to go further. States and state-society relations, particularly in Africa, are an important area of conflict and where peacebuilding mainly operates. Yet the particular configurations of states and state-society relations cannot be understood without an account of how international structures and actors condition them. Thus the panel would like to explore what role, if any, the international (understood as a structure, as concrete actors or otherwise) has in conditioning, interfering and even causing conflict. This could be linked to the role the international has played in structuring particular state-society relations that have turned into conflict, as well as how state-society relations have impacted in the way the international is structured. Panellists are encouraged to send contributions addressing questions such as: What or who is the international and how does it condition, interfere or cause conflict? To what extent is the international involved in structuring state-society relations that turn violent? How do state-society relations impact on the structure of the international, and what impact do these have when they turn violent?


Panel 2. Roots of violence and the politics of violence

Since the end of the Cold War there has been a shift in thinking about the roots of conflict in Africa and the developing world as a whole, and a widespread belief that conflicts do not follow ideological goals anymore. Three explanations have competed in accounting for the sources of conflict: an economic account focused of the gain-seeking goals of particular individuals; a geopolitical account, focused on the interest of powerful states in particular economic, security, or political goals; and an identity-based account, focused on culture, ancestral roots and religion, generally joined to land and belonging. These explanations, as well as the critiques and debates they have generated, have shed new light into the complexities of any particular conflict. However, what is surprising is that political protest and rebellion, as a political statement, have largely disappeared from the analyses of African conflicts. This panel would like to explore this absence, its rationale and, if there is any, the role of political protest, violence and ideology as an important vector affecting conflicts. Panellists are encouraged to ponder on the following themes: To what extent economic exploitation, identity and the struggle for land or particular recognition can be seen as separate from demands on distribution, political participation or politics writ large? Can/should conflicts in Africa be seen as a form of political rebellion or protest? If so, why has the language of protest disappeared from the explanations on the roots of conflicts?


Panel 3. The European response to conflicts: building peace or building power?

Peacebuilding debates have tended to be divided between a vision of peacebuilding as an instrument of world ordering, mainly at the hands of powerful actors, and a vision of peacebuilding as an increased commitment to normative and moral aims in world politics. The European Union with its new peacebuilding policy seems to portray itself as the latter. This normative peacebuilding ethos contrasts however with the militaristic approach that the EU and different European countries have taken in issues as varied as protecting fishing rights, protecting European borders, and several of its own peace operations. Several studies have already analysed the avenue the EU is taking regarding the maintenance or change of the status-quo in the internal and external politics of the societies it intervenes in. Other studies have focused on the EU’s internal dynamics, exploring whether it is possible to speak of a coherent peacebuilding approach and the links between those who lead the interventions and their interests abroad. This panel attempts to take stock of what is yet a new field of inquiry and explore critically the meaning of European peacebuilding. In particular, the panel would like to explore whether the EU can build a different kind of peace, or whether it is prone to reproduce power relations both within and without its borders. The panel also explores whether it is at all possible to speak of European peacebuilding as a distinct category and what that may mean for peacebuilding and International Relations more broadly.

The panel encourages contribution that would address these themes through a number of questions: Is it possible to speak of ‘European Peacebuilding’? If so, what does that mean theoretically and empirically? What kind of peace can the EU build? Is the EU prone to reproduce power relations both ‘home’ and ‘abroad’?


Please send your contributions in the form of a 200-word abstract and a short bio by the 25th of October to: Panellists would be notified of acceptance by the 31st.

Exhibition at the British Library. West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

An exhibition of literature and music – from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to the cultural dynamism of West Africa today

Fri 16 Oct 2015 – Tue 16 Feb 2016

Fascinating stories from the region’s 17 nations show how West Africans have harnessed the power of words to build societies, drive political movements, sustain religious belief and fight injustice. Beautiful manuscripts, historic film and sound recordings, books, photographs, and woven and printed textiles offer a unique insight into a profound and engaging literary culture with centuries-old written heritage existing alongside ancient oral traditions.

Hear the myth of the founding of ancient Mali in recorded performance. See the influence of religion through colourful fabric and the saddlebag Qur’an. Celebrate writers and artists including Africa’s first Nobel prize winner, Wole Soyinka, and internationally acclaimed musician and human rights activist Fela Kuti.

More information here