Intellectual and Methodological Foundations

The ICTPR engages in both theoretical and empirically-grounded investigations into the concept, nature and experience of transition as it relates to conflict and peace. A key goal of the Institute is to understand the dynamics of transition, how it unfolds, how it is experienced by ordinary people, and what effects it might have for a range of societies, their institutions and natural resources. In order to systematically explore these issues the ICTPR focuses on four key areas of investigation:

1. Theories of Transition in the Context of Conflict and Peace

How we think about conflict, transition, and peace often has significant ‘real world’ consequences. Such theories directly affect international practices of intervention and peacebuilding on the part of individuals, states, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Thus, the Institute seeks to interrogate and develop theories of transition in terms of their application to the study of conflict and peace in order to better inform the practitioners of conflict resolution, transitional justice, and peacebuilding. Working through both case studies and cross-case analyses, the Institute assesses the validity of these theories and evaluate how theories of transition developed through western intellectual eyes may, or may not, be useful in resolving conflicts and promoting peace in non-western settings.

2. Conflict to Peace Transitions

Drawing on new theoretical insights, the Institute analyses specific empirical cases of transition from conflict to peace at both the macro and micro level. Questions being explored and empirically examined include: What are the conditions that determine whether peace agreements stagnate or flourish? Who are the winners and losers in these transitions from conflict to peace? How do societies emerging from conflict deal with the violent legacy of their past? What kinds of people/organisations need to be involved in the transitional process to ensure its success? What role can civil institutions – such as the political, economic, health and educational systems – play in this process? How can the proposed settlement in terms of the distribution of natural resources, such as land, food, and water inhibit or contribute to its success? What role should locally-based justice systems versus international justice institutions play in the transitional process?

3. Peace to Conflict Transitions

The ICTPR investigates emerging global, local and technological trends that lead to violent conflict. Key to any work in this area is to identify ‘flash-points’ that mark out sites of ‘peace’ transitioning to/toward ‘conflict’. Framing questions may include: how do ethnonational divides, population movements, radicalization and mobilization for example, foster conditions in which fear and resentment drives people to conflict? What are the most fruitful ways to understand the ‘tipping points’ from peace to conflict?

4. Experiences of Transition

The ICTPR investigates and interrogates transitional processes themselves as both a site of conflict and of peace. Questions investigated include: how do cultural beliefs about race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, for example, impact on what counts as a significant transition? Who matters politically in transitional times? How are transitions differentially experienced and understood by individuals and states? What happens to psychologies and physical states when experiencing or emerging from transition? The latter question applies just as much to national and global institutions as to individual people (for example, when a person becomes a refugee or militant, or a state becomes a failed state, or when an institution, such as the legal or political system, becomes legitimate or, alternatively, discredited).