Personal profile

Research interests

I am interested in political violence, particularly mass collective violence, its causes and consequences and how it shapes state institutions and societies more broadly speaking. I am also interested in how states, collective actors and international actors seek to overcome this violence. In this regard, my interest is in when, how and why peace negotiations take place, and what their ultimate consequence might be. I am specifically interested in transitional justice mechanisms and whether, if at all, they might shape the path out of protracted mass violence and towards intergroup reconciliation. I work as a scholar, as well as a senior practitioner, including in the past with the United Nations - leading an investigation into the victims' delegations that participated in the recent peace talks between President Santos and the FARC-EP guerrilla (Colombia) - and with Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala, as well as with human rights organisations, such as the Centre for Human Rights legal Action (CALDH), Guatemala. With CALDH, I was part of the original team that prepared the investigation and body of evidence for the trial for genocide and crimes against humanity of former de facto president, General Efrain Rios Montt, in which Rios Montt was convicted for 80 years for said crimes in 2013.

At the moment, I am working on four projects:

Firstly, I lead a large ESRC research grant, entitled 'Getting on with it': the Micro-dynamics of Post-Accord Intergroup Relations. As Principal Investigator, I direct the project, which has tracked and analysed the mechanisms and narratives that individuals, groups and communities employ to address and cope with the legacy of political violence and manoeuvre through everyday post-accord life through multi/mixed methods and a comparative ethnographic approach. The project investigates how civilians in Colombia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland navigate the everyday complexities of post-accord life, exploring whether and, if so, how local agency plays a role in sustaining or undermining peace when formal interventions fail to reach communities, or, if they do, wield little impact. Theorising the micro-dynamics of post-accord intergroup relations, we have developed a robust evidence base to investigate how, if at all, intergroup coexistence and reconciliation matter for sustainable peace. 

Secondly, The Role of Victims and Perpetrators in Peacemaking: Social and Political Reconciliation in Colombia. Initial funding for this research came from the United Nations System (Colombia) (2015-2016). Drawing upon unique and privileged empirical research, which included more than 70 interviews with the members of the delegations and the negotiating parties, this project addresses the participation and role of the victims’ delegations in the recent Santos-FARC peace negotiations in Colombia, the degree to which the delegations shaped the peace process and the trajectory of the peace deal in the post-agreement scenario. The project builds theory by linking the core themes of reconciliation, coexistence, transitional justice and peacebuilding, with a focus on social identity theory. The research will be published in 2024 as a monograph with Bristol University Press.

Thirdly, I am part of a collective project with Newcastle University and Ulster University, entitled Screening Violence: A Comparative Study of Violence and in Indonesia, Northern Ireland, Colombia and Chile, funded through an Arts and Humanities Research Council Large Grant (2018-2022). Screening Violence is an innovative engagement with communities that have experienced prolonged and entrenched violence of different kinds: from guerrilla warfare, to state sponsored persecution of particular groups, to mass murder, to sectarian conflict. The project aims to achieve a new understanding of how social imaginaries shape civil conflicts and transitions to peace. This project recognises visual culture as a key imaginary space where meaning is made about conflict and violence. We therefore engage with communities that have experienced violence through the medium of cinema and documentary film.

Finally, I am working with colleagues from the University of Notre Dame, the University of Bath, Queen's University Belfast and Tampere University, amongst others, on the theme of political violence. One aspect of this research pertains to how individuals, states and societies address the consequences of disappearance. In this respect, we are developing a series of publications and inter-disciplinary projects, building on a workshop on living with disappearance held at the University of Bristol in 2023. A second element of this research pertains to reconciliation, in particular the way in which the embodied effects of political violence affect how civilians address the practices of interpersonal and intergroup reconciliation.

I collaborate closely on the themes of  political violence and transitional justice with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (University of Notre Dame), where I was a Visiting Fellow (academic year, 2022-2023).

I am also an International Programme Affiliate of the Conflict, Resilience and Health Programme, in the Jackson School of Global Affairs, at Yale University.

I work with the charity Never Such Innocence as a member of their Board of Advisors. NSI was established in 2014 with the aim of giving children and young people a voice on violent conflict and to shape national policy and international humanitarian law relative to young people and conflict (www.neversuchinnocence.com).

 

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • SPAIS Global Insecurities Centre
  • Violence
  • Conflict
  • Peacebuilding
  • Transitional Justice
  • Latin America
  • Colombia
  • Guatemala
  • Genocide
  • Reconciliation
  • Peace Negotiations
  • Mediation
  • Ukraine

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