Vier Personen, Jury und Preisträger des Ernst-Otto Czempiel-Preises 2023
Czempiel Award Ceremony 2023 with Roger Mac Ginty (second from left) on October 12, 2023. Photo: Lion Tsarfin/PRIF.

Ernst-Otto Czempiel Award 2023 for Roger Mac Ginty. Laudatio by Eva Senghaas-Knobloch

PRIF awarded this year’s Ernst-Otto Czempiel Award to political scientist Roger Mac Ginty. In doing so, the jury recognizes his 2021 monograph “Everyday Peace: How So-Called Ordinary People Can Disrupt Violent Conflict”, in which Mac Ginty explores how people in conflict zones can resist and disrupt totalizing war logics in everyday actions – even in combat. As the jury stated the author focuses a central peace policy problem and takes an extraordinarily innovative and transdisciplinary approach to it. The prize was handed over at PRIF’s Annual Conference on October 12, 2023. Professor Eva Senghaas-Knobloch, member of the jury together with Dr. Jörn Grävingholt and Professor Jonas Wolff, held the laudatio that is published here.

We live in a time of worldwide crises and conflicts, not a few of them violent. While public attention is directed mainly at matters of national security and military means, Roger Mac Ginty has countered by publishing a book with the title: Everyday Peace, subtitled How So-Called Ordinary People Can Disrupt Violent Conflict. His book aspires to answer the urgent question of why official peace negotiations and agreements on ceasefires so often fail to end the use of weapons, let alone resolve or even transform the underlying conflict. Mac Ginty argues that these formal approaches on the high political level are implicitly based on the assumption that the result of negotiations and agreements on the top level will “trickle down” to the multifarious interactions in everyday life.

A Bottom-up Approach for Peace

On the contrary, he makes evident that a bottom-up approach is also needed to actually anchor peace. A proper analysis of the actions and micro-actions in everyday life can recognize what kind of sorrows preoccupy the daily life of people in conflict areas and how they handle them in dangerous situations. Besides many other sources in conflict-ridden contexts, his findings from the project Everydaypeace Indicator and the project Making Peacekeeping Data Work for the International Community demonstrate what kind of security is urgently needed on the ground where people live in violent long-term conflict: For example, the elementary desire to be safe from rape when walking to a toilet is testified to by many women, including even those in UN-run refugee camps. Conversely, such contextual research can also identify the skills in everyday life that constrain violence, de-escalate, and create space for civility. Mac Ginty identifies three modes of action of ascending intensity in this context: sociality, reciprocity, and solidarity.

Sociality, Reciprocity, and Solidarity

With his focus on the small acts of everyday peace, Mac Ginty draws our attention to the bottom of societies and communities, and to the multitude of informal social relations that co-constitute societies and communities. His findings show that this level is as important as other levels of relations, whereby the different, yet interconnected levels should not be understood as a hierarchy of relevance.
He launches his concepts of “circuit” and “circuitry” to explain the connectivities between the hyperlocal or local level, and those levels above which are more common in peace and conflict research: The theoretical perspective of the International Relations discipline in Political Science covers mostly formal relations between states, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and organized civil society. Circuit and circuitry, in contrast, express phenomena of interlocking systems and their dynamics. They shall make us aware of how the local and the hyperlocal can be part of wider systems and are linked to processes of scaling up or scaling out.

The book’s arguments pay tribute to the fact that life in every community is based on formal and informal social relations and institutions. For instance, at the hyperlocal level, the family — in all its very different forms and power structures — teaches and practices ways of thinking, obligations, and patterns of care in everyday life. Dedicating a chapter to the relevance of family, Mac Ginty takes up the long-standing critical points of feminist scholars, also of peace researchers, against a pure rationalist understanding of human actions.

Mac Ginty unpacks the relevance of the informal and the small in disrupting the pervasive logic of violent conflicts. He demonstrates that small peace acts can be far from banal when showing how, even in brutal conflicts, be they national or international, individuals and groups may carve out space for human or even humane agency. Everyday peace practices encompass a broad spectrum of intensity. To mention just a few cases: Mac Ginty writes about young people in Belfast regularly listening to their punk music during the civil war in Northern Ireland — in their socializing behavior, they ignored the dominant conflicting passions of identity; he describes the solidaristic care for a Christian hairdresser by a Sunni family and other acts of mutual support between the politically charged religious groups during the civil war in Lebanon; and he reflects on the intervention of a small group of the official Sudanese army to protect protesting civilians from attacks by a government militia.

Hidden Pacifistic Acts

Mac Ginty reveals that violent conflict is often encompassing but rarely completely totalizing. Yet, the pacifistic acts are less visible, often hidden; nevertheless, they might contribute to changing the way conflicting groups think and construct their narratives. Although the book focuses on internal violent conflict in fractured societies and communities, it deals with international wars as well. He uses an amazingly broad spectrum of literature and innovative methods; taking a convincing stand to include pioneer studies of peace research and also historical documents, diaries, field letters, and testimonies, for instance those by former soldiers in World War I and World War II. Besides the expressions of horror, hate, and deep enmity in these documents, he also discovered descriptions and self-descriptions of multiple forms of tacit and less tacit resistance undertaken by recruited soldiers in armed battle. For instance, in World War I, French, German, and Belgian soldiers used the Christmas Truce and Christmas Eve as an opportunity to come out of their trenches and meet their counterparts as human beings on the battleground between them — a brave, humane activity, soon stopped by higher ranks of the military. Yet, it did take place and is well-documented.

The practices of everyday peace in conflict areas can extend, as Mac Ginty argues, from grudging toleration of other group identities to acts with the capacity to eventually transform a conflict. Even in brutally violent conflicts, the tasks and obligations of daily life demand or motivate practices that can disrupt the logic of conflict. Whereas truces and cease-fires may interrupt violent acts, everyday peace acts can disrupt the conflict, at least momentarily, jumbling the conflicting modes of thinking, feelings, and passions.

Skills to Disrupt the Logic of Conflict

Mac Ginty develops the thesis that such disruptive actions of everyday peace represent a type of power that also requires specific skills. The power used in everyday peace is not a coercive power “over” but a relational power “with,” power “from,” and power “to”; it is tied to self-restraint, moral example, participation, and courageous leadership. The necessary skills for this imply that a person or small group can “read” a very specific social situation, can identify opportune moments with the necessary emotional intelligence, and can ward off criticism from the broader group someone belongs to. Underscoring that there is a civil society beyond the organized groups of civil society, he also wants to direct our attention to those internal debates in political science which reflect on the ethnocentrism of the discipline that must be overcome in order to decolonize international relations.

The Messiness of Dailylife Interventions

It has to be emphasized that this book does not romanticize everyday peace. As the author argues, the chance of small acts to scale up or to scale “out” depends on several factors that hardly can be controlled. The concept of circuitry makes us understand the complexity — or as Mac Ginty says: the messiness — of the entire range of connectivities, in which informal relations play a role beyond formal structures and can disrupt the hegemonic norms of a conflict.

Transdisciplinary Research in International Relations

The book invites researchers to situate the ongoing discussion in International Relations about the “local turn” within more levels of analysis. Such an approach implies, if I may say, that International Relations, along with the other disciplines contributing to peace and conflict research, need structures that enable inter- and transnational research. Roger Mac Ginty himself demonstrates the competence of transdisciplinary research in his book. His Everyday Peace Indicator project, his other field studies in several countries, as well as his written works, refer to anthropological, social-psychological, sociological, and historical sources and studies, thereby underscoring their high relevance for peace and conflict research. No less significant are his reflections on the relationship between field research and affected people in the field. It may be that these reflections also demand a newly differentiated role for peace researchers.

Roger Mac Ginty’s Research Interests

Roger Mac Ginty works on peace and conflict, particularly on the intersection between top-down and bottom-up approaches to peacemaking. His research interests are international interventions, measuring peace and conflict, peace processes, peacebuilding and political violence. Mac Ginty co-directs the Everyday Peace Indicators project (with Pamina Firchow) and edits the Taylor and Francis journal Peacebuilding (with Oliver Richmond). He also edits the “Rethinking Political Violence” book series. His articles have been published in Cooperation and Conflict, Security Dialogue, and Review of International Studies.

On the Book

The monograph “Everyday Peace: How So-Called Ordinary People Can Disrupt Violent Conflict” was published by Oxford University Press in 2021 and can be ordered there.

Eva Senghaas-Knobloch

Eva Senghaas-Knobloch

Die Soziologin und Politikwissenschaftlerin Eva Senghaas-Knobloch lehrte bis 2008 als Professorin an der Universität Bremen. Als Senior Researcher am artec Forschungszentrum Nachhaltigkeit in Bremen befasst sie sich derzeit mit Themen eines nachhaltigen Friedens. // The sociologist and political scientist Eva Senghaas-Knobloch taught as a professor at the University of Bremen until 2008. As a senior researcher at the artec Sustainability Research Center in Bremen, she is currently working on issues of sustainable peace.

Eva Senghaas-Knobloch

Die Soziologin und Politikwissenschaftlerin Eva Senghaas-Knobloch lehrte bis 2008 als Professorin an der Universität Bremen. Als Senior Researcher am artec Forschungszentrum Nachhaltigkeit in Bremen befasst sie sich derzeit mit Themen eines nachhaltigen Friedens. // The sociologist and political scientist Eva Senghaas-Knobloch taught as a professor at the University of Bremen until 2008. As a senior researcher at the artec Sustainability Research Center in Bremen, she is currently working on issues of sustainable peace.

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