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Timely interventions: Temporality and peacebuilding

  • Ryerson Christie (a1) and Gilberto Algar-Faria (a1)


While there has been a long engagement with the impact of time on peacebuilding policies and practice, this engagement has to date focused predominately on issues of short- versus long-term initiatives, and of waning donor support for such initiatives. More recently, the critical peacebuilding turn has focused attention on the politics of the everyday as being essential to emancipatory endeavours enacted through localisation. Yet despite this, time itself has not been the subject of analysis, and the politics of time have not been integrated into the study of peacebuilding. This article, drawing both on historical institutionalist and on critical international studies analyses of temporality, provides a framework for analysing the impacts of time on the potential to achieve emancipatory peace. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Cambodia, this article asserts that a focus on Policy Time, Liberal Political Time, and Intergenerational Time highlights how peacebuilding initiatives are framed by disparate timescapes that limit the visibility of local chronopolitics, and that this in turn restricts local empowerment and resistances.


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1 Paffenholz, Thania, ‘Unpacking the local turn in peacebuilding: A critical assessment towards an agenda for future research’, Third World Quarterly, 36:5 (2015), pp. 857–74.

2 Richmond, Oliver, ‘Becoming liberal, unbecoming liberalism: Liberal-local hybridity via the everyday as a response to the paradoxes of liberal peacebuilding’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 3:3 (2009), pp. 324–44 (p. 335).

3 Also referred to as ‘Bosnia’ within some interview transcripts.

4 Fioretos, Orfeo, ‘Historical institutionalism in international relations’, International Organization, 65:2 (2011), pp. 367–99; Pierson, Paul, Politics in Time: History, Institutions and Social Analysis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).

5 Hutchings, Kimberley, ‘Happy anniversary! Time and critique in International Relations theory’, Review of International Studies, 33:S1 (2007), pp. 189; Hutchings, Kimberley, ‘Time and the study of world politics’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 46:3 (2018), pp. 253–8; Lousley, Cheryl, ‘Humanitarian melodramas, globalist nostalgia: Affective temporalities of globalization and uneven development’, Globalizations, 13:3 (2016), pp. 310–28; Shapiro, Michael J., ‘National times and other times: Re-thinking citizenship’, Cultural Studies, 14:1 (2000), pp. 7998.

6 This article's focus on local ownership in peacebuilding is embedded within the critical peacebuilding turn's emphasis on mechanisms of local empowerment and emancipation. See Ginty, Roger Mac and Richmond, Oliver P., ‘The local turn in peace building: A critical agenda for peace’, Third World Quarterly, 34:5 (2013), pp. 763–83; Richmond, Oliver P., ‘Emancipatory forms of human security and liberal peacebuilding’, International Journal, 62:3 (2007), pp. 459–78.

7 This article is based on a study on local capacity building through NGOs.

8 Any drive to establishing an emancipatory and sustainable peace must confront the complexities of the role of the West in such endeavours and navigate the complexities of how to facilitate local agency without simultaneously dictating the terms of peace. For an overview of the issues, see Mac Ginty and Richmond, ‘The local turn in peace building’.

9 Bulmer, Simon, ‘Politics in Time meets the politics of time: Historical institutionalism and the EU timescape’, Journal of European Public Policy, 16:2 (2009), pp. 307–24; McIntosh, Christopher, ‘Theory across time: The privileging of time-less theory in international relations’, International Theory, 7:3 (2015), pp. 464500.

10 McIntosh, ‘Theory across time’, p. 465.

11 Pierson, Politics in Time.

12 Goetz, Klaus H. and Meyer-Sahling, Jan-Hinrik, ‘Political time in the EU: Dimensions, perspectives, theories’, Journal of European Public Policy, 16:2 (2009), pp. 180201.

13 See, for example, Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

14 Shapiro, ‘National times and other times’.

15 Pierson, Paul, ‘Increasing returns, path dependence, and the study of politics’, American Political Science Review, 94:2 (2000), pp. 251–67 (pp. 264–5).

16 Adam, Barbara, Time (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), p. 143.

17 Goetz and Meyer-Sahling, ‘Political time in the EU’.

18 Meyer-Sahling, Jan-Hinrik and Goetz, Klaus H., ‘The EU timescape: From notion to research agenda’, Journal of European Public Policy, 16:2 (2009), pp. 325–36; Schmitter, Philippe C. and Santiso, Javier, ‘Three temporal dimensions of the consolidation of democracy’, International Political Science Review, 19:1 (1998), pp. 6992.

19 Goetz and Meyer-Sahling, ‘Political time in the EU’, p. 182.

20 Ibid., p. 184.

21 Ibid., p. 328.

22 Hom, Andrew R., ‘Silent order: The temporal turn in critical international relations’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 46:3 (2018), pp. 303–30 (p. 306).

23 Hom, ‘Silent order’.

24 Hutchings, Kimberley, Time and World Politics (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008); Hutchings, ‘Time and the study of world politics’.

25 Lousley, ‘Humanitarian melodramas, globalist nostalgia’, pp. 312–13; see also Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, pp. 6–8.

26 Lousley, ‘Humanitarian melodramas, globalist nostalgia’, p. 313.

27 Väyrynen, Tarja, ‘Rethinking national temporal orders: The subaltern presence and enactment of the political’, Review of International Studies, 42:4 (2016), pp. 597612.

28 Ibid., p. 602.

29 Ibid., p. 604.

30 Soroos, Marvin S., ‘Adding an intergenerational dimension to conceptions of peace’, Journal of Peace Research, 13:3 (1976), pp. 173–83.

31 Ibid., p. 173.

32 Ibid., p. 175.

33 Ibid., p. 178.

34 Pierson, Politics in Time, p. 14.

35 Klinke, Ian, ‘Chronopolitics: A conceptual matrix’, Progress in Human Geography, 37:5 (2012), pp. 673–90 (p. 685).

36 Hom, Andrew R., ‘Timing is everything: Toward a better understanding of time and international relations’, International Studies Quarterly, 62:1 (2018), pp. 6979 (p. 70).

37 Hutchings, Time and World Politics.

38 Lundborg, Tom, Politics of the Event: Time, Movement, Becoming (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012).

39 Hom, ‘Timing is everything’, p. 70.

40 Doyle, Michael W. and Sambanis, Nicholas, Making War and Building Peace (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 27.

41 McIntosh, ‘Theory across time’, p. 475.

42 de Coning, Cedric, ‘Adaptive peacebuilding’, International Affairs, 94:2 (2018), pp. 301–17.

43 Goodhand, Jonathan and Hulme, David, ‘From wars to complex political emergencies: Understanding conflict and peace-building in the new world disorder’, Third World Quarterly, 20:1 (1999), pp. 1326 (p. 15).

44 Donais, Timothy, ‘Empowerment or imposition? Dilemmas of local ownership in post-conflict peacebuilding processes’, Peace & Change, 34:1 (2009), pp. 326 (p. 9).

45 Stedman, Stephen J., ‘Peace processes and the challenges of violence’, in Darby, John and Ginty, Roger Mac (eds), Contemporary Peacemaking: Conflict, Peace Processes and Post-War Reconstruction (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 147–58.

46 Björkdahl, Annika and Höglund, Kristine, ‘Precarious peacebuilding: Friction in global–local encounters’, Peacebuilding, 1:3 (2013), pp. 289–99; Boyce, James K., ‘Beyond good intentions: External assistance and peace building’, in Forman, Shepard and Patrick, Stewart (eds), Good Intentions: Pledges of Aid for Postconflict Recovery (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000), pp. 367–82; Fetherston, A. B., ‘Peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding: A reconsideration of theoretical frameworks’, International Peacekeeping, 7:1 (2000), pp. 190218.

47 Chandler, David, International Statebuilding: The Rise of Post-Liberal Governance (London: Routledge, 2010); Donais, ‘Empowerment or imposition?’, p. 7; Heathershaw, John, ‘Unpacking the liberal peace: The dividing and merging of peacebuilding discourses’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 36:3 (2008), pp. 597621; Paris, Roland, ‘Peacebuilding and the limits of liberal internationalism’, International Security, 22:2 (1997), pp. 5489; Richmond, Oliver P., ‘Resistance and the post-liberal peace’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 38:3 (2010), pp. 665–92; Richmond, Oliver P., A Post-Liberal Peace (London: Routledge, 2011).

48 Richmond, ‘Becoming liberal, unbecoming liberalism’, p. 558.

49 Ginty, Roger Mac and Richmond, Oliver, ‘The fallacy of constructing hybrid political orders: A reappraisal of the hybrid turn in peacebuilding’, International Peacekeeping, 23:2 (2016), pp. 219–39 (p. 229).

50 See Chandler, David, ‘Beyond neoliberalism: Resilience, the new art of governing complexity’, Resilience, 2:1 (2014), pp. 4763; Chandler, David, ‘Resilience and the “everyday”: Beyond the paradox of “liberal peace”’, Review of International Studies, 41:1 (2015), pp. 2748; de Coning, Cedric, ‘From peacebuilding to sustaining peace: Implications of complexity for resilience and sustainability’, Resilience, 4:3 (2016), pp. 166–81; European Union, ‘Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe – A Global Strategy for the European Union's Foreign And Security Policy’, European Union Global Strategy (June 2016), available at: {} accessed 6 November 2019; Haldrup, Søren Vester and Rosén, Frederik, ‘Developing resilience: A retreat from grand planning’, Resilience, 1:2 (2013), pp. 130–45; Joseph, Jonathan, ‘Governing through failure and denial: The new resilience agenda’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 44:3 (2016), pp. 370–90; Juncos, Ana E., ‘Resilience as the new EU foreign policy paradigm: A pragmatist turn?’, European Security, 26:1 (2017), pp. 118; Ken Menkhaus, ‘Making Sense of Resilience in Peacebuilding Contexts: Approaches, Applications, Implications’, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform Paper No. 6 (January 2013), available at: {} accessed 6 November 2019.

51 Duffield, Mark, ‘Development, territories, and people: Consolidating the external sovereign frontier’, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 32:2 (2007), pp. 225–46.

52 Hom, ‘Silent order’.

53 Interviews CA09 and CA10 (see Appendix for the list of interviews).

54 Interview BH03.

55 Interview CA03.

56 Interviews BH03, BH11, BH13, and BH15.

57 Interview BH11.

58 Interview BH13.

59 Interviews BH03, BH09, CA02, CA03, and CA05.

60 Interview BH13.

61 Interview CA09.

62 Interview CA05.

63 Interview BH24.

64 Interviews CA01, CA02, CA03, CA04, CA05, CA09, and CA10.

65 Interview CA04.

66 Interviews CA02 and CA04.

67 Interview CA04.

68 Interview CA10.

69 Interview CA09.

70 Interview CA01.

71 Interview CA10. Tuol Sleng is a genocide museum in Phnom Penh.

72 Interview BH02.

73 Interview BH09.

74 Interview BH11.

75 Interview BH18.

76 Interview BH19.

77 Interview BH27.

78 Interview BH11.

79 Interviews BH15 and BH24.

80 Interview BH24.

81 Interview BH10.

82 Interview BH16.

83 Interviews BH13, BH15, BH16, and BH25.

84 Interview BH11.

85 Interview BH12.

86 Interview BH14.

87 Interview BH13.

88 Interview BH10.

89 Interview BH16.

90 Interview BH16.

91 Interviews BH16 and BH20.

92 McMahon, Sean F., ‘Temporality, peace initiatives and Palestinian-Israeli politics’, Middle East Critique, 25:1 (2016), pp. 521.

93 Interview CA05.

94 Notable exceptions include: Boersch-Supan, Johanna, ‘The generational contract in flux: Intergenerational tensions in post-conflict Sierra Leone’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 50:1 (2012), pp. 2551; King, Elisabeth, ‘From data problems to data points: Challenges and opportunities of research in postgenocide Rwanda’, African Studies Review, 52:3 (2009), pp. 127–48.

95 Interviews CA05 and CA06.

96 According to Interviewees CA05 and CA06, younger generations in Cambodia felt that their life chances were being held back with limited hopes for significant improvements in those prospects. They blamed older generations for their condition, and simultaneously had little interest in understanding the trauma of those who lived through the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, or the subsequent civil war. They often saw the political debates, and the actions of NGOs, as being disconnected from their own needs.

97 Interview CA06.

98 Interview CA05.

99 Interview CA06.

100 Mac Ginty and Richmond, ‘The local turn in peace building’, p. 764.

101 Interview BH01.

102 Interview BH03.

103 Interview BH23.

104 Interview BH21.

105 Interview BH23.

106 Interview BH21.

107 Interview BH06.

108 Interview BH08.

109 Interview BH21.

110 Interview BH17.

111 Interview BH07.

112 Interview BH03.

113 Interview BH03.

114 Interview BH15.

115 Interview BH04.

116 Interview BH03.

117 Interview BH22.

118 Interview BH21.

119 Interview BH26.

120 Interview BH06.

121 Interview BH05.

122 Interview BH21.

123 Interview BH21.

124 Cockell, John G., ‘Conceptualising peacebuilding: Human security and sustainable peace’, in Pugh, Michael (ed.), Regeneration of War-Torn Societies (New York: St Martin's Press 2000), pp. 1534 (p. 23).

125 Klinke, ‘Chronopolitics’, p. 675.


Timely interventions: Temporality and peacebuilding

  • Ryerson Christie (a1) and Gilberto Algar-Faria (a1)


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