While identity has emerged as an increasingly relevant topic of study for researchers and policy makers, it cannot explain violence in and of itself. What are the limits to studying identity and violence, and what other factors are important to take into consideration?
Rohee Dasgupta, our instructor, begins our final lecture with news from the Ivory Coast
, a country in West Africa. A former president of that nation, Laurent Gbagbo, had been brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and charged with crimes against humanity but, in early 2021, he was released as the evidence gathered was "insufficient" for conviction.
Gbagbo had been president until 2010 – he was defeated in an election that year by his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, but he declared fraud and held onto power. This drew international condemnation, as the UN, the African Union and other observers had confirmed the results (54% in favour of Ouattara). Both men declared themselves to be the rightful president, and a short period of civil conflict occurred that resulted in 3000 deaths.
Gbagbo's support base came from the Christian south, whereas Ouattara's came from the predominantly-Muslim north. Peacekeeping forces as well as journalists were restricted from the northern regions as Gbagbo's forces went in, and there were rumours of mass graves and death squads involved. Ouattara eventually won out, and Gbagbo was sent to the ICC to face trial. The evidence, as mentioned above, was not enough to convict.
Gbagbo is now free to return to the Ivory Coast, and Rohee expresses her disappointment – she believes that there were indeed grave crimes that were not brought to justice, and that cases that collapse give fuel to those who would challenge the ICC as a mechanism for laying charges against major figures. We spent much of the last few weeks, especially with our lectures on reconciliation
and transitional justice
, speaking about how the ICC emerged as a mechanism to work towards justice in highly-fraught, often identity-based conflicts that require both healing and justice.
While this lecture concludes our course on identity-based conflict, Rohee mentions that keeping tabs on developments like in the Ivory Coast will be easier now that we'll be looking for particular particular dynamics or patterns.
In our first lecture, we looked at identity politics
and how our concept of self and other can give rise to or escalate conflict. Next, we looked at various theories of identity and conflict
, in particular Benedict Anderson's imagined communities, Donald Horowitz's group classifications and Jay Rothman's ARIA dialogue tool.
In our third lecture we looked at how memory and historical narratives
impact conflicts, which was then followed by lectures on religious and ethnonationalism
as well as how leaders can manipulate
identities and emotions for political purposes, sometimes cumulating in censorship or genocide.
From there we looked at different attempts to mediate conflicts involving religion in the public sphere
, as well as factors like gender
or the politics of space
. In the final weeks we looked at post-conflict reconstruction with lectures on reconciliation
and transitional justice
and conflict management
We've been given a wide range of readings (the main ones have been referenced at the bottom of each page) to follow up on should we be interested in learning more about a particular topic. Rohee also recommends the blog Beyond Intractability, which is famous for gathering huge amounts of information on conflict studies as a field and organizing it in the form of short articles and interviews with the main players in the sphere. The design, admittedly, is not great, and it can be difficult to navigate, but it has proved to be one of the best free resources in the discipline.