The Chair began field work on AHRC Project “Screening Violence: A Transnational Study of Post-Conflict Imaginaries” with partners in Newcastle and Bristol Universities, and works with co-investigators and partners in Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Northern Ireland and Indonesia this month. Data collection was undertaken in partnership with the Nerve Centre which included the screening of the Colombian film “Falsos Positivos” (see details). A focus group discussion took place following the film to engage the “social imagination of violence”.
On November 2019 the Chair hosted an important civic lecture on the Magee Campus. The lecture was given by Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa entitled “Beyond rainbow-ism in South Africa: a restitutional reading of the ‘Black Christ'”.
The intriguing title referred to a 1962 protest art work in which Albert Luthuli – then president of the African National Congress and Nobel Peace Prize winner – controversially replaces (a typically pale-skinned figure of) Jesus on the cross. The then Minister of Justice, John Vorster, is portrayed as the soldier in the background, with Prime Minister Verwoerd as the centurion-with-the-spear.
In the lecture, as South Africa’s post-1994 dream of a “rainbow nation” is increasingly being challenged, Wilhelm treated this painting as an icon to help explore some of the deep wounds of the past that have not been fully recognised, let alone addressed, especially within the white “beneficiary community”. Since the centurion-with-the-spear is also his grandfather he focused on the intergenerational challenge of restitutional shared responsibility with this relational dynamic in the foreground. The lecture was deeply moving and thought provoking, and is available online.
As part of the BuildPeace Conference that Ulster University hosted the Chair arranged for a special lecture to take place on the Magee Campus on 26 October 2018. The lecture was delivered by Helena Puig Larrauri, Co-founder & Director at Build Up, and was entitled “Digital Technology, War and Peace: Three provocations”. The lectures considers whether digital technology is creating the conditions for more polarisation, discord and (eventually) violence. Or do digital technologies offer new and exciting ways to connect, find common ground and build peace? Drawing on practical experiences of local peacebuilders around the world, the lecture explores the way digital technology interacts with the dynamics that drive war and peace.
The lecture is available below.
On 2 October 2018 the Chair hosted a public lecture on the Magee Campus by Dr Chris Dolan, Honorary Professor at Ulster University and Director of the Refugee Law Project. The lecture was entitled “Spheres of Harm: An Exploration of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence against Men”. The lecture focused on conflict-related sexual violence against men, and highlighted some of the major practical, conceptual and disciplinary challenges to dominant models for addressing sexual violence. Dr Dolan proposed an alternative approach to thinking about sexual violence in conflict which has a major impact on enhancing progressive models of gender justice.
Professor Hamber published today in the Irish Times a piece about the Presidential shifts in South Africa and the collapse of the Stormont Talks. The article begins “In a strange way the South Africa and Northern Ireland peace processes have always been linked. In the 1990s both were heralded as examples of how deep divisions could be overcome, and co-operation fostered between former enemies. Other connections were more direct, such as the former ANC lead negotiator and now new South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s role in the decommissioning processes as an inspector on behalf of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. Two decades later, however, both peace processes have lost their shine…”
To read the rest, click here.
A report from BBC Good Morning Ulster on a visit of INCORE Ulster University MSc and HECUA students visit to Stormont shortly after the 2017 election.
As part of his recent state visit to the UK, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia made a stopover in Belfast. The visit, which was planned for several months, took on a new significance given the October “No” vote in a referendum to endorse the peace agreement between the Colombian government and Farc.
President Santos has routinely noted that Northern Ireland is a “reminder of what is possible” and various delegations of politicians, civil society, academia and business from Northern Ireland have interacted with the peace process in Colombia over the years. It is clear from the visit that President Santos is seeking an international mandate to continue to garner support for a perhaps revised agreement, as well as to get more funds from the UK government to support aspects of the peace process. Northern Ireland offers the president an opportunity to show that peace and compromise can work in terms of political co-operation even if aspects of the peace process remain unfinished. For example, proposals for dealing with the past have still not been agreed 18 years after formal agreement.
But being in Northern Ireland will also present challenges for President Santos on the home front. Although the international community have been helpful in the peace process, some of those who supported the “No” campaign have criticised the president for being overly focused on the international community and his standing, rather than listening to how many Colombians feel. The peace process has become about presidential politics and not genuine social engagement, some would say. The transformation of some former combatants from guerrillas into formal politicians, a key part of the failed agreement, also remains a contentious point in Colombia and one the “No” campaign exploited.
For those who oppose President Santos’s political perspective and approach to peace in Colombia, the Northern Ireland process might not be seen as a rosy example. There is a sizeable amount of the Colombian population who still see any involvement of former combatants in government as problematic. The president is walking a tightrope between maintaining international standing and support, winning over more people to his position which includes the need for compromise with the Farc, and keeping the Farc on board. The latter remains a growing challenge as proposal from those opposing the agreement seem to be focused on limiting Farc’s rights (eg to participate freely in so-called normal politics). The road ahead will indeed be bumpy.
On the positive side, it seems that most agree that a political agreement is needed to end the 50-year-old war. Colombians however clearly differ in the ways they think this should be achieved. Northern Ireland has balanced this position for years, and in that sense is a comparative case study to be taken seriously. It also highlights that peace is never a done deal, and that building peace, as obvious as it sounds, is always a process that requires constant attention and nurturing. This is as true for Colombia as Northern Ireland where distrust, separation and a legacy of violence continue to impact on how the future might look.
Published by Professor Brandon Hamber, John Hume and Thomas P O’Neill Chair in Peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute at Ulster University, Irish News, 7 November 2016.
The original article is available here, Irish News, 7 November 2016.