[URBANTH-L]CFP -- The Post-Conflict Environment

Dan Monk dmonk at mail.colgate.edu
Wed Aug 13 11:34:37 EDT 2008

Call for Papers: "The Post-Conflict Environment."  The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Peace and Conflict Studies Program [P-CON] at Colgate University.


In the twenty years that have passed since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of a bipolar geopolitical order, the world has experienced no fewer than 116 violent conflicts. Encompassing regional and inter-communal struggles, civil wars, insurrections and counterinsurgencies, ethnic cleansings, politicides, and so-called wars on terror, these "new wars" -as Mary Kaldor has described them-have not only been notable for their brutality, but also for the fact that they have largely extinguished any lingering distinctions between civilians and combatants, the front and the rear. (As Kaldor indicates, among the most striking feature of these 'new wars' is the fact that the average civilian/military casualty ratio now stands at 8:1, the inverse of what it was prior to WWI). As military operations on urban terrain [or "MOUT campaigns"], sieges, and scorched earth tactics have reintroduced themselves with a new vigor in the repertoire of warfare, an entire reconstruction industry has emerged in their wake, bringing with it new forms of expertise in the assessment and management of the post conflict environment.

Indeed, because war has rapidly become a metropolitan phenomenon, one of the most prominent though overlooked consequences of the contemporary history of warfare may be the emergence of the "post-conflict environment" itself; that is, the appearance of a series of common social and physical attributes out of wartime conditions [and the responses to them], wherever armed conflicts occur. Despite the important political, geographic, and economic differences between them, in Kosovo, Falluja, Guatemala, and the Sudan, the logic of conflict generates something approaching a universal ecology of ruin. To date, however, this post-conflict environment has only been described in fragmentary form with too little exchange across disciplines and issue areas. Distributed throughout the academic and policy literatures on postwar stabilization and reconstruction, transitional governance, humanitarian assistance, peace and nation building, informal networks and civil society, the characteristics of the post-conflict environment await systematic description in a single work.

The Post-Conflict Project:

The aim of the Post-Conflict Environment Project is to attempt such a description; first, in a workshop and then in a published monograph and linked web site aimed at a readership of academics and non-specialists alike. Recognizing the twin methodological challenges presented by the distinctiveness of individual conflicts on one hand, and of the disciplinary approaches developed to interpret them on the other, the organizers of the Post-Conflict Project see this range of political and methodological cases as an opportunity to delineate a 'composite image' of the postwar environment. In other words, we seek to analyze the most prevalent/salient characteristics of the post-conflict environment out of the cumulative descriptions and interpretations of differing postwar conditions.


Today, few wars are declared, fewer treaties are signed, and no formal surrenders take place. Contemporary conflict is marked as much by recidivism into armed struggle as anything else. (Hence, the recent emergence of concepts like 'conflict management'). For these reasons a comprehensive description of the post-conflict environment must necessarily eschew facile distinctions between peace and war: both are relevant to the landscape in which peace-building initiatives and low-intensity warfare can coexist, just as neither adequately describe the provisional nature of turns away and towards armed struggle. These paradoxes have policy relevance, however: by reviewing the dialectics of the post-conflict environment, the organizers of the project seek to ascertain if this new, highly liminal condition between anarchy and formal politics signals the new, 'normative,' politics of the next century.


Phase 1. The Workshop: The organizers propose to address these complexities in the form of the Post-Conflict Project itself. We will bring together approximately +/-12 experts at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC in April 2009. A number of participants will be invited directly, and others selected through a call for papers. Priority will be given to specialists in the following fields: Urban Studies; Geography/Environmental Studies; International Law/Human Rights; Postwar Stabilization and Reconstruction/Planning; Demography and Public Health; International Politics and Diplomacy; Anthropology and Sociology of Conflict. The participants will be asked to present a literature and best practices review of the post-conflict environment, focusing critically on how it is portrayed in published case studies within their own distinct disciplines, as well as in the reports of international agencies working in the field. In the process, each contributor will attempt to answer how their discipline describes and analyzes the kinds of environment that exist 2 days, 2 months, and 2 years after the cessation of hostilities. This shared time horizon is critical to this project's aims, as it will permit participants to 'freeze' dynamic processes along a common axis while analyzing the implications of the temporal variable.

The aim of this first meeting is not only to familiarize participants with one another's studies, but also to initiate a conversation concerning the shared characteristics of post-conflict conditions that emerge in them. The organizers do not expect universal consensus on these matters, but anticipate instead the emergence of constellations between sets of fields instead. For example, demographers and public health experts may together find commonalities that will, in turn, provide important links with studies in law or planning, etc.. The meeting will be web-linked to Colgate University, and students, faculty, and experts from it and other institutions will be able to participate in the discussions that follow each presentation.

Phase 2. Publication: The workshop will focus on ways to revise and edit initial contributions around thematic core descriptors of the post-conflict environment that emerge in workshop discussions. The organizers will collaborate with participants in the publication of a co-authored work rather than issuing the traditional edited volume with each author contributing a chapter. Assuming a guiding role in the process, the conveners propose to work with individuals and teams of authors to rely upon materials from all of the presentations, and then expand upon them, as they prepare final chapters that will each be organized around the shared 2/2/2 time horizon and the core descriptors. (For example, following on the example outlined in Phase 1 above, one could expect that one or more chapters would focus on aspects of infrastructure along the 2 day, 2 month, and 2-year trajectory. Another essay might complement it by focusing solely on excess mortality during the same 2/2/2 horizon). Author and author teams will be asked to complete their revised essays by Late August 09, in anticipation of a fall production schedule for the collection. Depending on the availability of funding, contributors will also be invited to a second meeting at Colgate University in July 2009, for the purpose of coordinating final drafts of their texts. The Editors of the Woodrow Wilson Center Press have already expressed strong interest in the proposed volume.

Phase 3. Website and Book Release: The organizers propose to launch the publication and the related website in Winter '09-10. Public sessions with authors will take place at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and at Colgate University, with each event video and web-linked to the other. Podcasts from authors will be made available on the website and iTunes. A website for the Post-Conflict Environment Project will be launched in parallel with these public events The literature and best practices reviews submitted for the first meeting in Washington will be made available online, along with comprehensive bibliographies, and links to relevant sources. Abstracts of the book chapters and themes will also appear on the site. The eventual aim of the website is to complement the essays in the book with materials suitable for use in academic courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.


The Post-Conflict Environment Project is sponsored by the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at Colgate University [P-CON], and the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) and Comparative Urban Studies Project (CUSP) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The oldest Peace and Conflict Studies Program at a non-sectarian institution in the US, P-CON sponsors research initiatives in the field of Critical Geopolitics. The Woodrow Wilson Center is the formal memorial to the nation's 28th president, a non-partisan, non-advocacy forum bridging the worlds of scholarship and policy. ECSP facilitates research-policy dialogue and analysis on environment, health, and security connections and CUSP on urban health, migration, governance, and infrastructure issues.

The conveners of the Post-Conflict Environment Project are:

Daniel Bertrand Monk
George R. and Myra T. Cooley Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies
Professor of Geography
Colgate University
dmonk at mail.colgate.edu

Geoffrey Dabelko
Director, Environmental Security Program
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Geoff.Dabelko at wilsoncenter.org

Blair Ruble
Director, Kennan Institute, and Comparative Urban Studies Programs
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
blair.ruble at wilsoncenter.org


Individuals who wish to participate in the Post-Conflict Environment Project should submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, as well as a CV of no more than 2 pages to Kathy Langworthy, Administrator, P-CON Program -- Colgate University. Abstracts and CV's should be combined in a single msword document, and sent as attachments to Ms. Langworthy at: klangworthy at mail.colgate.edu. The deadline for submissions is Friday, 31 October 2008.

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