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From transition to transformation in ethnonational conflict: some lessons from Northern Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2012
JournalEthnopolitics
Journal number2
Volume11
Number of pages22
Pages182-203
Early online date21/10/11
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article focuses on an often undervalued area of academic research between ‘war’ at one extreme and ‘peace’ at the other, namely the transitional period between the two. (The terms ‘war’ and ‘peace’ are used here, and throughout the article, in the knowledge that a substantial body of literature exists that seeks to define the boundaries and conditions of both. It is not the intention to engage directly with these debates, but the words war and peace are used throughout in the understanding that these are complex and multifaceted terms.) The article argues that more emphasis needs to be placed on the process of transition in the period after an agreement has been negotiated but before new structures have transformed conflict relationships. It is argued that this transitional phase is critical to the success or failure of the wider political engineering of such negotiated agreements. The article uses the case of Northern Ireland to examine this transitional moment in the wider architecture of conflict transformation within an ethnonational dispute. It is argued that the key to the success of such a fragile peace is to be found in the capacity of the transitional process itself to reduce the political logic of violence among the direct actors and their supporters. It is also argued that we need to be sensitive to the differential pace of this transitional process across both the formal and informal political spheres and to the possibility that these can take multiple or even contradictory paths.