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Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention


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Part of Problems of International Politics

  • Date Published: July 2014
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107632042
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About the Authors
  • This book suggests a new explanation for why international peace interventions often fail to reach their full potential. Based on several years of ethnographic research in conflict zones around the world, it demonstrates that everyday elements - such as the expatriates' social habits and usual approaches to understanding their areas of operation - strongly influence peacebuilding effectiveness. Individuals from all over the world and all walks of life share numerous practices, habits, and narratives when they serve as interveners in conflict zones. These common attitudes and actions enable foreign peacebuilders to function in the field, but they also result in unintended consequences that thwart international efforts. Certain expatriates follow alternative modes of thinking and acting, often with notable results, but they remain in the minority. Through an in-depth analysis of the interveners' everyday life and work, this book proposes innovative ways to better help host populations build a sustainable peace.

    • Provides a new explanation for the variable effectiveness of international efforts
    • Offers policy makers and practitioners tools and ideas with which to improve peacebuilding efforts
    • As opposed to conventional peacebuilding analyses, it looks at intervention efforts from the bottom up rather than from the top down
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    • Winner, 2016 Annual Best Book Award, International Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'In this book, Séverine Autesserre makes another superb contribution to the study of peacebuilding, this time by exposing and analyzing the subculture of expatriates who participate in peacebuilding efforts on behalf of a diverse array of international and nongovernmental organizations. Many of the persistent dysfunctions of peacebuilding missions, she suggests, can be traced back to the routine practices, habits, and narratives within this subculture. It is a fascinating argument, of importance to both students and practitioners of peacebuilding.' Roland Paris, University Research Chair in International Security and Governance, University of Ottawa

    'Scholars and practitioners have needed an ethnography of peacebuilding for quite some time - and Autesserre is one of the very few equipped to provide it. Having spent years in different conflict zones, as both an aid worker and a scholar, she knows the terrain like few others. She expertly re-creates how peacebuilders live and practice their craft; how these practices contribute to failures on the ground; and why peacebuilders, who should and do know better, seem to be incapable of changing their ways. In showing how the culture of this transnational community constructs and acts on the local scale, she does for peacebuilding what James Ferguson's The Anti-Politics Machine did for development studies. Peaceland is a pathbreaking contribution to our understanding of the contemporary practice of peacebuilding - and global politics.' Michael Barnett, University Professor of International Relations and Political Science, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

    'Thanks to its empirically thorough, interpretively sophisticated, and analytically rich understanding of practices of intervention, this book raises the bar of academic research for the whole discipline of International Relations. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the hardest of theaters, Séverine Autesserre makes the definitive proof that paying attention to the ways in which the everyday world of international intervention goes around throws a distinctive and most useful light on a central phenomenon of our time. This book is the best thing that could possibly happen to foster the study of international practices.' Vincent Pouliot, Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar, Department of Political Science, McGill University, and Director, Centre for International Peace and Security Studies

    'In this groundbreaking inquest, Autesserre builds on her previous work on the Congo to show the vital significance of 'doing' peacebuilding from the ground up, with sustained attention to the local dynamics of conflict. The number of case studies investigated, the originality of her methodology, the breadth of supporting evidence, and the range of arresting insights are among the principal merits of this outstanding contribution. One can only hope that it will be widely read by peacebuilders everywhere, but also by scholars, journalists, and policy wonks in search of a new angle of vision for making 'Peaceland' a reality.' René Lemarchand, Emeritus Professor, University of Florida

    'Essential reading for practitioners, policy makers, and donors involved in international interventions in conflict areas. Drawing on her worldwide field experience, Professor Autesserre's comprehensive research offers new perspectives on how and why interveners should develop a thorough understanding of the local history, culture, and customs of populations in conflict zones. Much can be learned from her critical insights as we endeavor to assist those populations in danger.' Catherine Dumait-Harper, Former MSF Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders Representative to the United Nations

    'In recent years peacebuilding has become something of a vogue in international circles. So Séverine Autesserre's book is a timely and well-reasoned reminder for all would-be peacebuilders and the organizations that stand behind them that they need to be prudent and patient in both their prescriptions for peace and the way they go about trying to achieve them. Good intentions are not enough.' Alan Doss, Senior Political Advisor, Kofi Annan Foundation

    'Autesserre speaks with authority in a book which is both a harsh critique and a tribute to the individuals and organizations that dare to think differently.' Times Higher Education

    'Peaceland should be a wake-up call to anyone who lives in this world … Autesserre's courage for wandering outside her discipline's comfort-zone (though ethnographic approaches seems to be on the rise) is noteworthy, and perhaps it is time for more anthropologists to do the same to develop a more comprehensive understanding of intervener's relations with local populations, and the role of everyday habits and rituals therein.' Stephanie Hobbis, Anthropoliteia

    'The book is a must-read for intervention practitioners, policy advocates, scholars and researchers in the field, as well as educators in the classroom.' Sabine Hirschauer, International Feminist Journal of Politics

    'Peaceland is an important book. It builds on rich fieldwork and a bulk of literature on international interventions in developing countries to advance a novel and sophisticated argument about the potential and the limitations of events to promote peace or prevent the recurrence of violence.' Desafios

    'Peaceland, by Séverine Autesserre, offers a fresh and insightful contribution to the small but growing body of literature that advocates for increased focus on the roles and influence of the 'everyday' in international peace-building interventions.' Janel Smith, International Journal on World Peace

    'Severine Autesserre's superb ethnographic study of international peace interventions adopts this complementarity approach to practices. Autesserre underscores the importance of the 'nuts and bolts of peacebuilding: the banal, everyday activities that actually make up the bulk of the work'. She demonstrates convincingly that everyday practices and mundane elements produce and reproduce the strategies and policies of peacebuilding, thereby explaining 'the existence and continued use of ways of working that interveners view as inefficient, ineffective, or even counterproductive'.' The Journal of Global Security Studies

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    Customer reviews

    29th May 2014 by User605804461089

    This book shows how everyday factors, which usually go overlooked, such as peacebuilders habits, procedures, and narratives, significantly affect the effectiveness of their efforts. The argument adds a major piece to the puzzle of explaining international interventions successes and failures. The book is masterfully written, weaving together extensive primary ethnographic research from many conflict zones, including Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burundi, and Timor Leste, alongside a thorough reading of secondary sources, and the authors personal reflections on her time as a peacebuilder. Peaceland is a pleasure to read and is set to become a major contribution to the field of peacebuilding. I enthusiastically recommend it to scholars and practitioners alike.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107632042
    • length: 360 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.47kg
    • contains: 1 map 3 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Studying the everyday
    Part I. Constructing Knowledge of the Host Country:
    2. The politics of knowledge
    3. Local reactions
    4. Fumbling in the dark
    Part II. Constructing and Maintaining Boundaries:
    5. The interveners' circle
    6. A structure of inequality
    7. Daily work routines
    Conclusion: transforming Peaceland
    Appendix: an ethnographic approach.

  • Author

    Séverine Autesserre, Barnard College, Columbia University
    Séverine Autesserre is Assistant Professor of Political Science, specializing in International Relations and African Studies, at Barnard College, Columbia University. Autesserre's work has appeared in such publications as Foreign Affairs, International Organization, African Affairs, the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Critique Internationale, the Review of African Political Economy, the African Studies Review, the African Security Review, and the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs. Her previous book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press, 2010), won the 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order and the 2011 Chadwick Alger Prize presented by the International Studies Association to the best book on international organizations and multilateralism. Autesserre has won several prestigious fellowships for her work, notably research grants from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace.


    • Winner, 2016 Annual Best Book Award, International Studies Association
    • Co-Winner, 2015 Yale H. Ferguson Award, Northeast Section, International Studies Association
    • Honourable Mention, 2015 Chadwick Alger Prize, International Organisation Section, International Studies Association
    • Honourable Mention, 2014 Book of the Year, African Arguments
    • Honourable Mention, 2015 CRS Book of the Year, The Conflict Research Society

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