Welcome to my blog! Every week, I will post at least one article on something involving wicked problems either in peacebuilding or comparative politics. I define those fields very broadly, so you’ll probably be surprised by some of the topics I end up covering.
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I started my career as a political scientist and am now a peacebuilder. The two fields obviously overlap, but the nature of that overlap has not been obvious. However, after reading Rachel Kleinfeld’s wonderful new book, A Savage Order, I’m beginning to see not only where the connections lie but also where we need to (re)direct our peacebuilding work. Thirty years ago, Theda Skocpol and others convinced a lot of political scientists that we had to “bring the state back in” to our research on comparative politics which was then focused on voting behavior and the like. They were right then. They are right for peacebuilding in other ways today.
I learned a lesson a lot about building bridges with people we disagree with last week when Bob Jones visited, helped teach a class taught by Doug Irvin-Erickson, and then took me to meet Dave Johnson of C4ADS which used to be known as the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. What made Bob and Dave different is that they are both retired Army special forces colonels. So, when they stressed the same things I did, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Robert Putnam’s notion of bridging social capital and why it is so important at times like these. In our discussions last week, three themes rose to the surface. I hear all of them all of the time from colleagues in the peacebuilding world. What made them unusual here was the source. Bob, Dave, and others I know with military backgrounds have been saying these things for years. It’s time we started paying attention to them.
I will be humbled this week. Not humiliated. Just shown how little I know about something I should know a lot about. A colleague will be in DC to interview me and others for a project a leading British funder with ties to the British government has asked him to do on best practices for restoring democratic legitimacy in countries emerging from war, including places like Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the like.I’m writing this post to prepare myself so that I don’t waste his time. The ideas in it will also find their way into the peace and conflict studies textbook I’m finishing. As a result, this post will be a bit longer than usual.
Doug Irvin-Erickson and I are in the home stretch of writing our peace and conflict studies textbook. That means that we have two challenges. Finishing the few topics we haven’t fully covered yet. Pulling the whole thing together so that in a way that grabs the attention of its readers. Although we had planned to focus on the former for the next few weeks, our bosses (aka our editors) asked us to do the latter. In the end, we realized we have been writing an unusual book because we felt the need to make it interesting, challenging, and empowering. Unusual, interesting, challenging, and empowering are rarely words one associates with textbook, so I thought it would be useful to spell out why we are doing so in a blog post that will, in turn, help us polish the final draft of the all-important first chapter.
Ten days ago, I attended the Northeastern meeting of the International Studies Association to give a paper. Afterward, I stayed long enough to attend one more panel. I chose one on gender because I knew I would be writing about its role in peacebuilding in my textbook sometime in the next few weeks. It was a great choice because a number of the presentation forced me to (re)think about the role of gender in international relations in general and how we peacebuilders have (and haven’t) dealt with it. Three issues stood out, all of which will appear in expanded form in the book.
I just ended a hectic month of traveling with two conferences in the space of a single weekend. I presented a paper on corruption and peacebuilding at the Northeast Regional meeting of the International Studies Association that wasn’t half as interesting as a panel on gendered approaches to international relations which I’ll write about next week. Far more interesting in the short run was the day I spent with a group of community college teachers who were attending an annual conference organized by David Smith. I try to attend whenever I can, but this year I had to drag myself onto the Metro yesterday morning, because I was exhausted from all of the travel and meetings….