Dynamics of a protracted conflict and restrictive norms and customs have created gender specific vulnerabilities for women living in rural areas of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (drc). Despite a growing awareness about women’s rights and protection needs among state actors and local authorities, women’s agency to break the culture of silence around violence remain limited. Based on extensive field work with selected communities in North and South Kivu in eastern drc, we analyse how this culture of silence limits the agency of individual women to seek self-protection. We also examine the role of women’s groups in these study areas and the strategies these groups use to advocate for their self and collective protection needs. We argue that the use of various frames to gain support of stakeholders, creating informal networks with key figures to gain access, and building allies among men have enabled women members of these groups to challenge restrictive norms around women’s access to decision-making spaces and visibilised their presence in public and break the culture of silence. We also point out that the sustainability of these mechanisms is open to question and backlash against women’s groups remains a possibility.
This article considers an unlikely source for non-militarized approaches to disrupting war and other forms of violence: fighters themselves. How can engaging with fighters/former fighters realize novel forms of violence/war disruption across various contexts, and what are the barriers to and implications of such engagement? Fighters’ exit from their armed organizations can be a source of violence/war disruption in two ways: first, through the sheer act of leaving and thereby diminishing the fighting capability of an armed organization, and, second, through using their credibility as former fighters to engage in activism to influence other current fighters, as well as the broader public, to refuse participation in or support for violence/war. Examining the work of “credible messengers,” “formers,” and anti-war veterans to disrupt street violence, extremist violence, and wartime violence, respectively, reveals surprising commonalities among them, as well as strikingly different reactions to their respective forms of disengagement/refusal and the policies they require.
This article presents recent research on the collection and organization of unarmed civilian peacekeeping (ucp) data and proposes a pathway to the creation of a rich, regularly updated database on ucp. The article sets out by giving an overview of the wealth of data on conventional (military) peacekeeping and related research, and raises the question about the need for a similar data wealth for ucp. Secondly, it describes the inventory of current ucp data, to highlight advances in knowledge as well as data collection challenges and critical information gaps. In the main part, the article then sets out what a more comprehensive data collection on ucp would need to take into account and what such a dataset could look like. To do so, it also draws on databases regarding nonviolent campaigns and other fields (health, aviation) to demonstrate the potential for future data collection methodologies and research, and to consider safeguarding issues. Finally, this article suggests four strategies to better structure existing ucp data in order to collect missing information on various research themes. The benefits of the resulting rich database, it argues, would be greater visibility of ucp, the production of data useful for various research programs, and insights to improve field practice.
This article examines the social and spatial dimensions of civilian agency amid violent conflicts, specifically focusing on the daily work required from indigenous community members in the upkeep of a peace zone as a space of peace and self-protection amid insurgency and counterinsurgency. Using the concept of indigenous geopolitics as an analytical framework, it argues that indigenous spaces of self-protection require the simultaneous processes of collective refusal of state or non-state violence toward indigenous peoples and the re-inscription of indigenous sovereignty within the nation-state. Through case study vignettes, it illustrates the agentive capacities and power of indigenous peoples as geopolitical actors. Rather than viewing indigenous communities as ‘passive victims’ of violent conflicts or excluded from state-centric geopolitical discourses and processes, this article reveals that indigenous agency transforms spaces of conflict and violence and generates and creates new or alternative spaces of unarmed civilian protection and peace outside of the purview of state and non-state armed actors. At stake is a re-thinking or destabilizing of dominant state-centric geopolitical processes that govern contemporary understanding of civilian protection, war, conflict, and peace.
Worldwide, civilians experiencing violence make agential choices about how they interact with conflict landscapes. This special issue assembles contributions that specifically deepen our understanding of nonviolent civilian agency amid violence. Our Introduction embeds these contributions in a wider overview of the study of civilian agency in war. First, we unpack the state/military versus civilian binary upon which dominant scholarship’s idea of agency in violent conflict is often still based and show how this has contributed to an analytical gap in our understanding of nonviolent civilian action. We then provide an overview of the growing literature that has started to fill this gap and discuss how its recentering of nonviolence and civilian agency enables a more nuanced understanding of conflict management and transformation across diverse contexts. Finally, we provide an overview of the contributions to this special issue and how they take the state of the art of scholarly work forward.
Although also victims, there is a growing appreciation that civilians are actors in civil wars. Scholarship on civilian agency shows how their decisions impact well-being and shape conflict dynamics. Civilians are increasingly framed as impartial forces resisting armed groups and cultivating peace. However, civilians are as likely to support armed groups and deepen violence. This paper seeks to better understand civilian partisanship. I frame forms of civilian support that enhance the coercive capacities of armed groups as ‘indirect violence’. Some forms of support, such as refusing to provide information or protesting enemy abuses, may reduce violence, while providing food or medicine is more neutral. Other actions, such as contributing funds, intelligence, recruits, and weapons, enable armed groups to carry out violence. That civilians contribute indirect violence does not mean they are not victims, but may call their innocence into question, providing a sober account of civilians in civil war.