Research: Raising Silent Voices

Raising silent voices: Harnessing local knowledge for communities’ protection from violence in Myanmar.
Project summary of 18 month project funded by AHRC-ESRC Partnership PaCCS Conflict Theme.

Civilians living amidst violent conflict, like everyone experiencing conflict, know who is involved, the history, what makes it worse or lessens the impact on them. They have knowledge that those outside the conflict do not possess. The dominant peace and conflict intervention strategies of international agencies and NGOs begin with assessing the conflict situation using models based on western understanding of conflict trajectories, community resilience, and peacebuilding, with an outsiders understanding. Although local people may be involved, their knowledge is rarely informing intervention and support strategies. This research will show the importance of placing local, contested, knowledge in the centre of intervention strategies, empowering and enabling local people and potentially making interventions more effective. The research takes a case study of local conflict knowledge in Karen and Mon areas of Myanmar, training local researchers to use storytelling, arts and craft approaches to enable local people to represent and share their knowledge in culturally appropriate ways, through which they share their understanding of the conflicts, violence and peace strategies. The content of what they produce will be mapped onto the existing conflict analysis of the local partner in order to analyse the themes and gaps.
The local partner is Nonviolent Peaceforce, an NGO who provide unarmed civilian peacekeeping and protection of civilians to local communities around the world. They have been in Myanmar since 2012 and the results of this research will enable them to be more able to capture and use local knowledge about the conflicts, violence and peace to inform future project choices.

This international and innovative research will impact on local people by making their voices louder and clearer, on Nonviolent Peaceforce interventions by potentially making them more effective, and on academic and policy approaches to conflict analysis, “the local”, and the types of knowledge used in understanding conflict and peace. It crosses peace and conflict studies and arts disciplines, adding methodologically and to the way we teach about conflict knowledge.

Researchers: Dr Rachel Julian, Leeds Beckett University. Dr Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Aberystwyth University, Dr Ellen Furnari. 

 Contact: Dr Rachel Julian