The Soldier and Political Life
Political Science & Peace Studies
My dissertation examines the political existence of the soldier in western civilization. I attempt to understand the place of the soldier in political life, as it has evolved from ancient times, to modernity, to the present day. Through readings of Homer and Thucydides; Machiavelli and Clausewitz; Carl Schmitt and Ernst Jünger; and Tocqueville and Hemingway, I analyze the types of political significance that have attached to the soldier across four historical moments. The historical studies set into relief the figure of the contemporary American soldier, whose essence—I argue—is to be an object of pity.
“Feel the Grass Grow”: The Practices and Politics of Slow Peace in Colombia
Anthropology & Peace Studies
On October 2, 2016, Colombian citizens voted to narrowly reject the peace accords signed by the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). As grassroots peacebuilders in Montes de María, a conflict-affected territory located along the northern coast, sought to make sense of the election and its consequences for their work for peace, they returned to a shared sentiment that emerged time and again: “Peace is not signed. Peace is built.” While community leaders advocated for the necessity of the peace accords, they simultaneously recognized the accords as insufficient, alone, for building peace after a half century of sustained violence. After a month of mass mobilizations and renewed negotiations, the government and the FARC signed a revised peace accord in November 2016. The Colombian negotiators drew on the concept of “territorial peace” to include a bottom--up approach to peacebuilding in the text of the accords. The state’s use of a top--down approach to implementation, however, reflects the challenge of translating participatory measures from paper to practice. Drawing on 22 months of ethnographic research conducted from May 2014-October 2017 in Montes de María, I explore how the technocratic delivery of ‘peace’ conceived and signed by elite actors renders alternative notions and practices of peace invisible, even as the text of the accords explicitly seeks to do the opposite. The distinction between peace “signing” and peace “building” lies at the center of this dissertation. The inherent tension in the refrain points to the ways grassroots leaders in Montes de María understand their daily work for peace as related to – yet separate from – the national accords. The distinction brings into sharp relief the multivalent practices that local communities engage to transform the multiple forms of violence that extend into a context of “not-war-not-peace” (Nordstrom 2004). I develop the concept of 'slow peace' to identify the practices that communities use to respond to the overlapping violence(s) of social fragmentation, environmental degradation, and armed conflict, revealing how the distinct notions of time, environment, and social relations that inform everyday peacebuilding in Montes de María complicate the state’s ‘postconflict’ peacebuilding project.
Although nearly half of all peace agreements revert to armed conflict within five years, accords inclusive of local actors are more durable (Högbladh 2012). While the literature underscores the need to connect local and national peace efforts, the daily work required to construct and sustain such alliances remains understudied. This dissertation offers timely analysis of the daily interactions between grassroots activists, state actors, (I)NGO workers, and private sector actors as universalized notions of peace become reworked within a particular locale (Tsing 2005). Specifically, I analyze the shifting relationships and interactions between and within local and national peace efforts, including a nonviolent campesino movement, the Peaceful Process of Reconciliation and Integration of the Alta Montaña as well as the youth wing of the movement, the Youth Peace Provokers, a local accompaniment organization, Sembrandopaz, and a regional coalition, the Regional Space for Peacebuilding, which unites over 300 local peace processes as implementation unfolds in Montes de María. I employ a multigenerational framework to include youth perceptions and engagements in my analysis. The dissertation draws from data collected on local peacebuilding efforts before and after the signing of the peace accords as well as analysis of the first ten months of implementation. I contend that the multiple meanings ascribed to “territorial peace” produce a contested site that enables critical analysis of divergent notions and approaches to peace.This dissertation offers a critical examination of the disjunctures that occur when those engaged in multigenerational practices of ‘slow peace’ attempt to build alliances with those seeking to deliver ‘peace’ through bureaucratic projects. The conceptual framework of ‘slow peace’ unearths distinct and multiple understandings of ‘participation’ and ‘territory,’ with implications for theory and practice.
From Reform to Recoupling: Towards a New Police Culture in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sociology & Peace Studies
In Argentina, as elsewhere in Latin America, meaningful police reform efforts have been halting and ineffective, stymied by the lack of political will and the “culture of secrecy” which pervades police forces. My dissertation examines how reform efforts impact police practices in Buenos Aires’ 54 police precincts. Drawing on empirical studies of police and police reform and insights from organizational and cultural sociology, I ask: How do legal and structural reforms at the level of the city change precinct-level operations? How do these changes vary based on the organizational cultures of specific police stations and the neighborhoods they are tasked with patrolling? Under what conditions can reforms successfully “recouple” the policies and practices of police, thereby reducing gross misconduct? I respond to these questions using a mixed-methods design – quantitatively coding key attributes of the city’s 54 police precincts and the neighborhoods in which they operate and qualitatively documenting change, via interviews and ethnographic observation. This research will advance scholarly understanding police reform processes, a chronically neglected topic which is critical, given the changing conditions of urban policing in Latin America.
The Practical Wisdom of Hospitality in the Anthropocene: Building Peace Amidst Slow Violence & Human Displacement
Theology & Peace Studies
The degradation of creation is accelerating today in terms of rate and scope, bringing deleterious effects to the flourishing of human and non-human forms of life. One indicator of the accelerating ecological crisis is global climate. The earth is currently at its warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and according to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), this anthropogenic warming trend will have increasing implications in the coming century. Given the trends identified by the IPCC, this dissertation assumes that—despite mitigation efforts—human economic activity and associated anthropogenic climate warming will continue to increase throughout the 21st century, leading to total global warming of the order of 4-6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century (in accordance with IPCC RCP 8.5 projections). Assuming these projections, this dissertation interweaves perspectives from liberationist theology, feminist theology, virtue theory, strategic peacebuilding, the tradition of Christian hospitality, and three ethnographic case studies in order to offer two primary contributions:
- This dissertation argues that sustained practice(s) of hospitality are a critical form of practical wisdom—on both global and local levels—that will be necessary to reduce violent conflict and increase the possibility of flourishing for human and non-human species alike amidst a radically warmer, destabilized climate;
- This dissertation argues that facets of a theologically-informed hospitality, drawn from the Christian tradition, might offer resources to the cultivation of the practical wisdom of hospitality in the Anthropocene.
Director of Doctoral Studies