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Peaceland: Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention

(Problems of International Politics)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  19 reviews
This book suggests a new explanation for why international peace interventions often fail to reach their full potential. Based on several years of ethnographic research in conflict zones around the world, it demonstrates that everyday elements - such as the expatriates' social habits and usual approaches to understanding their areas of operation - strongly influence peaceb ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published May 19th 2014 by Cambridge University Press (first published April 30th 2014)
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Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all humanitarian & development workers
Recommended to Tinea by: Wronging Rights blog
I do not know how to rate this book! Is it 5 stars because of the seriousness with which the author takes praxis ("the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realised")? Or is it 3 stars because "thou dost protest too much"-- so much overwhelmingly documented data to prove the smallest of points already made by many others (individual behavior by staff at the implementation level will make or break a peace process, regardless of how well crafted)? Why not push, go f ...more
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a very insightful and nuanced book on the problematic aspects of international interventions, that remind of colonial attitudes and behaviors and that impede effective implementation and results. Though Autesserre focusses on peacebuilding in conflict zones (in a large sense, including peacekeeping, conflict prevention, mediation, etc. by military forces, diplomats, UN and NGOs), her findings are also relevant to other international interventions, such as humanitarian assistance and deve ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
Thinking about peacebuilding, the subject of “Peaceland”, Séverine Autesserre’s new book, makes it hard to imagine that such an endeavor could ever work well enough to be critiqued. There are the operational difficulties inherent in coordinating varied participants, some of whom had been recently trying to kill others in the group, conflicting goals among local stakeholders, pressure from outside sources pursuing their own agendas and the presence of not quite disarmed or demobilized groups on t ...more
Sara Salem
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
This was interesting because there are not enough critiques out there of interveners in conflict areas and the ways in which they live in bubbles and reproduce problematic structures of exclusion. However, she didn't go far enough in uncovering the roots of this reality. Neocolonialism and racist views of people in developing countries are a key aspect and she barely mentioned these. In the end one gets a sense that yes, interveners should do better but they do have good intentions and their con ...more
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to enter the world of conflict resolution or humanitarian development. However, I did not realise how true the notions recorded were until I myself joined "Peaceland" as a staff of an international organisation.

Re-reading the book for the second time was a revelation in many ways, and although some pervasive behaviours have changed, most of the analyses still hold true to this day. I hope to re-read it again in the future to reflect again on the st
James Hadinger
May 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Closing book for my So You Want to Save the World course - Great insight into conflict resolution and micro/macro look at interveners in Peaceland.
Nadia Kanji
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Autesserre’s book is a crucial read for anyone who is dabbling in the world of foreign policy or humanitarian intervention. Despite the controversy surrounding foreign intervention, the way in which she defines the “effectiveness” of intervention (as having promoted peace in the area of intervention), automatically looks at this within the realm of producing a positive impact, as opposed to looking at the geostrategic gain for an external intervener.

Rather than examining the local factors th
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading for everyone who works toward positive change in a foreign county. For those with limited time, the introduction and conclusion should provide an ample summary.

Autesserre draws on substantial ethnographic fieldwork to demonstrate how the everyday habits of foreign interveners and their organizations often negate their intended impact or even cause harm, mainly through discounting the importance of context, undervaluing the contributions of local staff, and ignori
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
A fascinating ethnography of the "peace-building industry." For anyone who has spent time working or living in conflict zones, many of its themes will be familiar. Yet Autesserre applies a remarkably systematic analytical approach, justifying and explaining her reasoning and methodology with great care. She draws out how everyday practices, habits, and norms by international interveners--while not necessarily irrational--can end up reinforcing stark boundaries between interveners and the very co ...more
Banu Altunbas
My dear friend Severine always impresses me with her thorough research, very insightful analysis and her brilliant conclusions. I believe this book will make a lot of people think and reflect on what we do on the field. Even though I don't agree with all the conclusions of this book, I do share many of the observations and shortcomings of peace building. One point that made me wonder throughout the book was the bundling of all interveners in the quest for peace. The humanitarian organizations es ...more
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Autesserre provides first-hand experience with international peace builders as well as the domestic victims through her ethnographic fieldwork and research trajectory. This book is a living theory of international relations combined with a dynamic documentary of transnational intervention; this book criticizes the conventional understanding of intervention while incorporating importance of distinctive cultures of victims and peace builders.

Read our interview with Dr. Autessere here: http://w
Oct 04, 2014 rated it liked it
An ethnographic study of humanitarian and aid workers. Based on my experience with these people in Cote d'Ivoire, a lot of the discussion here was right on point. The book explains how humanitarians (and most ex-pats in developing countries) isolate themselves from the local population to the detriment of their missions' effectiveness. I particularly liked the discussion of local knowledge v. general technical expertise, and how the latter is more valued despite the obvious problems with this. S ...more
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book offers valuable insights into peacekeeping/peacebuilding field work. Having not shared the author's experiences, I can't speak to its accuracy, but I found her insights were very practical and informative. While based on academic research as well as Autesserre's own field experience, Peaceland remains consistently readable and applicable. I am doing my undergrad and don't have a background in field work, but I never found the language too technical or context-specific. However, in an e ...more
Mohammed Al-awlaqi
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book explains very important issues in many Peace Missions. As I come from Yemen, it explains why the international community focus only on Marc-level of the conflict, avoiding to tackle the grassroots. Also, the book explains the usage of dominate narratives in explaining the conflict, yet these narratives can lead the focus on the effects, but not the sources of such conflict! I strongly recommend this book...
Cecilia Cavero Sánchez
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
bursting the bubble! very recommended to understand how changing daily practices can dignify international intervention (and also make it more effective)
Paul Harper
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: peacekeeping
This book is relevant not only to peacekeepers but to development types and indeed expats of all sorts. COINdanista's might also want to read. ...more
John DeRosa
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Essential reading for peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and military intervention.
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
All you need to know and understand about the humanitarian world.
Adam Salisbury
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous to read and self-reflect on. Applies just as much to Aidland as it does to Peaceland
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Apr 30, 2017
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Séverine Autesserre is an award-winning author, peacebuilder, and researcher, as well as a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of the books The Trouble with the Congo , Peaceland , and The Frontlines of Peace , in addition to articles for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Polic ...more

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23 likes · 3 comments
“At first glance, one might assume that a peacekeeping soldier from Pakistan, a diplomat from the United States, and a human rights advocate from Senegal would approach their jobs quite differently. Yet, while in Congo for a previous research project, I observed striking similarities in the ways that international interveners understand the situations they face and in the strategies they adopt, despite their otherwise extremely different national, professional, social, and economic backgrounds.” 1 likes
“ peacebuilders usually arrive in new theaters of deployment with a clear sense of belonging to a specific group – a group markedly different from local populations.” 1 likes
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