‘Blessed are the peacemakers’: international relations, peace and the way forward

Few concepts are seemingly as basic yet as contested as ‘peace’. A coherent understanding of ‘peace’ and ‘peacebuilding’ has remained elusive in academia, with efforts to form an all-encompassing understanding of both hindered by a lack of inter-disciplinary communication and research. The University of St. Andrews Visualizing Peace project is seeking to change this. Alongside Dr. Alice König and Postgraduate Research Mentor Jenny Oberholtzer, a team of 12 students drawn from across university departments and year groups is investigating patterns of representing and narrating peace in their respective fields of study, as well as the role that these conceptualizations play in peacebuilding efforts.  

The group’s first output was a 175-source literature review which compared different disciplinary approaches to the construction of peace, highlighted existing gaps in scholarship, and outlined potential steps to ensure that academic research and practical theories of peacebuilding are indeed reflective of the challenges they seek to address. This presentation by student Mathias Katsuya summarizes a portion of the literature review with an emphasis on the field of International Relations and the dominance of the ‘liberal peace’ narrative within it. Beyond explaining the theoretical underpinnings of ‘liberal peace’, the presentation highlights the consequences of assuming the universality of particular visualisations of peace on both academia and real-world peacebuilding efforts. Finally, this presentation outlines alternative conceptualizations of peace and illustrates instances of success through contemporary case studies ranging from post-Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland to present-day Somaliland.

‘Blessed are the Peacemakers; international relations, peace and the way forward’, Mathias Katsuya