International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution

Article

Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory

The Case of Northern Ireland

Keywords peacebuilding, phronesis, civil society, practice–theory, Northern Ireland
Authors Emily Stanton PhD en Grainne Kelly
Author's information

245124 Emily Stanton PhD
Emily Stanton is PhD candidate in the School of Politics, Faculty of Social Science, Ulster University, Northern Ireland. Email: Stanton-E@email.ulster.ac.uk.

245126 Grainne Kelly
Grainne Kelly is Lecturer of Peace and Conflict Studies at the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), Ulster University, Northern Ireland. Email: g.kelly@ulster.ac.uk.
  • Abstract

      This article seeks to explore why, after significant financial investment and a history of nearly 50 years of civil society activity, there is a paucity of explicitly codified and consolidated indigenous theory that has emerged from peacebuilding practice in Northern Ireland. Methodologically, this apparent contradiction is explored, utilizing both empirical research (interviews with key peacebuilders) and the wide practitioner experience of the authors. It is argued that two complex dynamics have contributed to the subordination of local practice-based knowledge, namely, the professionalization of peace and the dominance of research over practice within academia. These two dynamics have played a mutually exacerbatory and significant role in creating barriers to constructing local peacebuilding theory. Phronesis, an Aristotelian term for practical knowledge, is explored to discover what insights it may contribute to both research, theory and practice in the field of peacebuilding, followed by examples of institutions demonstrating its value for practice–theory reflexivity. The article concludes with a call for peace research that validates and values practical knowledge. By doing so, the authors argue, new avenues for collaborative partnership between practitioners and academics can open up, which may play a constructive role in bridging practice–theory divides and, most importantly, contribute to building more effective and sustainable peacebuilding processes in Northern Ireland and in other conflict contexts.

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