My work focuses on the local experiences of international interventions for peace, justice, and development in post-conflict states.
In most of my past work (between 2007 and 2015) I used an ethnographic approach (see Routledge 2014) to examine how local individuals and communities understand, experience, and evaluate the impacts of projects planned, funded, and administered by international actors.
This form of research provides a detailed account of the often unseen and usually unpredicted effects that international interventions for peace, justice, and development produce or inspire in senstive post-conflict states, as well as the responses among local actors on the ground.
My research to date has focused on the case of Sierra Leone, but many of the dynamics I have discussed for this case are clearly replicated across a diverse range of other settings.
My theoretical contributions regarding the generation of hybrid peace structures in the Journal of Peace Research (2014), the friction between international actors and local settings in International Peacekeeping (2013), and, most recently, the complex nature of peace and conflict systems in Peacebuilding (2020) and the Journal of Peace Research (2021), are applicable to many different contexts and forms of intervention.
Please see my Research and Publications pages for further information.
- PhD Social Science2010 - Syracuse University
- MA International Peace and Conflict Resolution2006 - American University, Washington DC
Memberships and Affiliations
- Internal Memberships
Head of Sociology (2019-present)
Member of the School Executive Committee
Research Impact Lead for the Department of Sociology
Plagiarism Officer for the School of Social Science
Member of the School of Social Science Internationalization Committee
Member of the School of Social Science Post-Graduate Committee
- External Memberships
I have been an active member of the International Studies Association (ISA) for over 10 years and have served in various administrative roles, including, from 2016 to 2020, as the Chair of the Peace Studies Section.
As of April 2021 I have peer reviewed articles for the following journals:
- African Affairs (3)
- Africa Today
- American Political Science Review;
- Cambridge Review of International Affairs
- Civil Wars
- Conflict Resolution Quarterly (2)
- Conflict, Security & Development (2)
- Cooperation and Conflict (7)
- Critical Studies in Media Communications
- Development and Change
- Economy and Space
- Ethnic and Racial Studies (4)
- European Journal of International Security
- Global Policy; Human Rights Review
- International Journal of Transitional Justice (4)
- International Peacekeeping (4)
- International Studies Quarterly
- International Studies Review
- Journal of Comparative Politics
- Journal of Contemporary African Studies
- Journal of International Political Theory
- Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding (3)
- Journal of Modern African Studies (2)
- Journal of Peacebuilding and Development (3)
- Journal of Peace Research (6)
- Land Use Policy
- Media, War & Conflict
- Memory Studies (2)
- Peace and Conflict Studies (3)
- Peace and Conflict: The Journal of Peace Psychology
- Peacebuilding (2)
- Political Geography
- Politics and Religion
- Review of International Studies (3)
- Rural Sociology
- Sage Open
- Security Dialogue
- Social Anthropology
- Social Problems
- Society and National Resources
- Stability Journal
- Third World Quarterly (5)
- Third World Thematics (2)
- Transitional Justice Review (3)
My research interests concern international conflict and peace, transitional justice, and processes of peacebuilding and development. I am primarily focused on studying the local experiences of international projects in transitional states and assessing how projects planned, funded and administered by international actors in post-conflict settings are experienced by local people.
I have outlined a methodology for conducting this kind of research in my first book, titled "An Ethnographic Approach to Peacebuilding: Understanding Local Experiences in Transitional States" (Routledge 2014).
Further, I am deeply involved in developing theoretical approaches to understanding and conceptualizing these interactions between 'international' and 'local' actors, and in a recent volume myself and a number of colleagues forward the notion of friction as a key conceptual tool for this exploration.
For further information see Annika Björkdahl, Kristine Höglund, Gearoid Millar, Jair Vanderlijn and Willemijn Verkoren. Peacebuilding and Friction: Global and Local Encounters in Post Conflict Societies. London: (Routledge 2016).
My research in the past has focused on the case of Sierra Leone, although my current project on 'Ambition and Ambivalence', which examines 21st Century Challenges to Peace, focuses on Nigeria.
I am currently accepting PhDs in Sociology.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.
AMBITION AND AMBIVALENCE: 21st CENTURY CHALLENGES TO PEACE
In 2018-2019 I was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to start this new project, which is ongoing.
The field of Peace Studies faces significant obstacles in responding to challenges such as climate change, demographic shifts, mass migration, and declining Western influence. These obstacles undermine the field’s traditional normative ambition to contribute to peace and generate ambivalence regarding its ability to tackle future conflict.
This project examines the balance between ambition and ambivalence in Peace Studies. It does so via a mixed-method approach assessing data collected from academics, students, policymakers, and practitioners and reflecting on the past, present, and future state of the field and its capacity to theorize, research, and provide solutions for future conflicts. The first outputs from this product, reflecting on the complex challenges the field faces and how we might respond, were published in Peacebuilding (2020) and the Journal of Peace Research (2020)
ETHNOGRAPHIC PEACE RESEARCH (EPR)
Since late 2015 I have been working to consolidate an Ethnographic Peace Research (EPR) agenda in Peace Studies.
Following a workshop funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) at the University of Aberdeen in July 2016 I co-edited a book titled "Ethnographic Peace Research: Approaches and Tensions" (Palgrave 2018), a Special Issue of International Peacekeeping on EPR as a methodology published in late 2018, and a further volume titled "Engaging Ethnographic Research" (Routledge 2019). In addition, I have continued this work with a number of articles regarding EPR for policy engagement in Cooperation and Conflict (2018), the benefits of long-term fieldwork for peace and conflict studies research in International Peacekeeping (2018), and very recent articles on trans-scalar EPR in both Peacebuilding (2021) and the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding (2021).
Along with other members of informal international research network that has been involved in this project, I am now working to develop a research agenda and submit research proposals to utilize, test, and calibrate this methodology to meet the needs of contemporary peace research challenges. This effort has recently been focusing specifically on Indigenous Monitoring and Evaluation processes in everyday peace systems.
Just Food? Mutual Exchange Network on Just Food System Transitions
Funded from April 2021 to March 2022 by the British Academy, this action-research project will establish a mutual exchange network on just food system transitions including food system actors from four usually unconnected geographies. This will be a space for dialogue, exchange and learning between local food system actors working and advocating for justice in the food system. It will include organisations and movements linked to the right to food, women’s rights, and agroecological transitions, as well as the policymakers in each case central to the realisation of just food transitions and European advocacy NGOs important for larger global policy change. The primary goal is to establish a trans-scalar (local, national, international) and interregional (Europe, South America, Southern Africa, West Africa) network of actors engaged in food system transitions, which includes the experiences of many who have yet to be given the attention they deserve in debates about sustainable development.
Primary Research Questions The project is designed to address three central research questions:
1) How do local food system actors describe their current and their ideal ‘just’ food systems?
2) What steps must be taken to achieve a ‘just transition’ to such ideal food systems?
3) What resources, supports or capacities do food system actors require to achieve a ‘just transition’?
I am interested in supervising PhD students with an interest in post-conflict justice, peacebuilding, and development in any region of the world or particularly students with an interest in using ethnographic methods to evaluate international intervention in transitional states.
I am currently supervising Ruben Schneider in his ESRC funded PhD research focusing on the local impacts and experiences of securitized conservation projects in sub-Saharan Africa and the potential conflict or peace promoting dimensions of such interventions.
Funding and Grants
2021 - British Academy 'Just Transitions' Research Grant, £15,203
2020 - Research Impact Support Award, £2,000
2018 - Leverhulme Research Fellowshiop, £46,848
2017 - University of Aberdeen GCRF-IPPF, £9,050
2016 - Independent Social Research Foundation, £4,999
2016 - Principal's Interdisciplinary Fund, £1,225
2015 - Principal's Interdisciplinary Fund, £1,163
2013 - The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland Research Grant, £2,420
2013 - Principal’s Excellence Fund, £500
2012 - Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty Fieldwork Grant, €10,235
Together with my colleague, Dr Luisa Gandolfo, I teach the 4th year option course titled "Between Peace and Conflict: Societies in Transition".
Both MScs can be completed full-time over 12 months or part time of 24 months.
I am interested in supervising PhD students with an interest in post-conflict justice, peacebuilding, and development in any region of the world or with an interest in using ethnographic methods to evaluate international intervention in transitional states.
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Review of Lyn S. Grabill. Religion, Tradition, and Restorative Justice in Sierra LeoneModern Believing, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 397-399Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
Ambition and Ambivalence: Reconsidering Positive Peace as a Trans-Scalar Peace SystemJournal of Peace Research, vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 640-654Contributions to Journals: Articles
Ethnographic Peace ResearchThe Oxford Handbook of Peacebuilding, Statebuilding, and Peace Formation. Richmond, O. P., Visoka, G. (eds.). Oxford University PressChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
Coordinated Ethnographic Peace Research: Assessing Complex Peace Interventions Writ Large and Over TimePeacebuilding, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 134-148Contributions to Journals: Articles
Trans-Scalar Ethnographic Peace Research: Understanding the Invisible Drivers of Complex Conflict and Complex PeaceJournal of Intervention and Statebuilding, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 289-308Contributions to Journals: Articles
The Long-Term Legacies of Transitional Justice: Understanding the Paradox of Peace In Sierra LeoneTruth Commissions and State Building in Africa. Ibhawoh, B. (ed.), 13 pagesChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
Ethnographic Peace ResearchChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Entries for Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
The Ethics of Ethnographic Peace and Conflict ResearchThe Palgrave Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork. Vogel, B., Brett, R., Mac Ginty, R. (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 147-162, 16 pagesChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
Preserving the Everyday: Pre-Political Agency in Peacebuilding TheoryCooperation and Conflict, vol. 55, no. 3, pp. 310-325Contributions to Journals: Articles
Toward a trans-scalar peace system: challenging complex global conflict systemsPeacebuilding, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 261-278Contributions to Journals: Articles