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The peace-building agency of stigmatized civilian actors in European cities dealing with the consequences of terrorist violence

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - URPEACE (The peace-building agency of stigmatized civilian actors in European cities dealing with the consequences of terrorist violence)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-12-31

Problem/issue being addressed

Peace and Conflict Studies have so far shown very little interest in paroxysmal violence in non-war cities and even less in European non-war cities. Research on the peacebuilding potential of local actors dealing with violence in Western cities is even rarer. This study seeks to address this lack of interest.

Important for society

This project is important for society because it responds to the call of critical security scholars for more attention to the experiences of insecurity of the marginalized populations, who are often targeted in security discourse and policy. They raise the question “whose security?” do we speak of when we speak of security. The project shifts the focus from the abstract concept of security to the embodied emotion of fear. The fears of those that are feared, as well as their capacity to and involvement in making peace has to this point been ignored by scholars and professionals in this field. URPEACE considers the bottom-up approaches of marginalized people to mitigate and transform security challenges and -policies, and has used these as starting point to understand everyday acts of peacebuilding by non-state actors.

Overall objectives

This study aims to contribute to knowledge about peace-building agency of civilian actors in marginalized social-housing neighbourhoods that deal with the consequences of terrorist violence in European cities. While the bulk of peace and conflict studies literature has provided insight in the dynamics of violence rather than peace, this study uses a spatial approach to peace to analyse existing and new data on dealing with violence and peacebuilding. The study breaks with the tendency of peace and conflict studies to focus on the Global South, state processes and armed conflict and makes it very relevant for studying initiatives in European cities that deal with the aftermaths of paroxysmal violence. For its conceptual framework of urban peacebuilding it uses inductive and deductive research methods, by bringing together the literature review on urban peace and peace-making in European cities and the results of field research in these three European cities (Grenoble, Basel region and Brčko).


Studying violence and peacebuilding in non-war contexts, such as in European cities, unsettles Western, spatial ideas of peace ‘here’ and conflict ‘there’, and is a prerequisite for making the knowledge from peacebuilding mostly from the Global South and East relevant in western contexts.
The study URPEACE provides empirical and theoretical arguments why Peace and Conflict Studies should widen its scope of empirical sites to include non-war violence in the city.
The study was organised in eight work packages related to four specific aims. Below are mentioned the work that was performed for each of the aims and the corresponding results and publications.

1) The study defines urban peacebuilding and mapped its underlying process in different European cities (Grenoble, Brcko, Basel/Freiburg-im-Breisgau), using both inductive and deductive research methods.
2) The study provides insight into the fears and fearful experiences of stigmatized populations in marginalized social-housing neighbourhoods and their relationship to agency.
3) The project identifies and analyses the initiatives of stigmatized civilian actors in two marginalized social-housing neighbourhoods in Grenoble, and their contributions to urban peacebuilding.
4) The study translates research results into policy recommendations. With the guidance of swisspeace, research results have been translated into practice-oriented recommendations (see below under Progress).
5) A specific method of data collection has been developed in order to deal with the methodological challenge that power asymmetry between the researcher and research participants constitutes for qualitative research. In a context of subalternization, the developed method contributes to creating spaces of speech.

Dissemination among peers (conferences)

"Peace research in non-war cities", an analytical inquiry, American Association of Geographers, Feb 2022, New York, United States
"War and peace as embodied and situated experiences", Swiss Political Science Association Annual Congress, Feb 2022, Lausanne, Switzerland
"A spatial approach to peace to better understand post-war cities", Swiss Geographers Meeting, Nov 2022, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
"Urban violence in France as body politics", Swiss Geographers Meeting, Nov 2021, University of Geneva, Switzerland
"Museums as actors of agonistic peace? Dealing with racist legacies in Switzerland", Why Remember? Peace, Conflict and Culture Network, Jul 2022, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
"Challenging the narrative of the ethno-nationalist city in post-war Bosnia" with Ayla Korajac, Institute of Australian Geographers & New Zealand Geographical Society Combined Conference (IAG-NZGS), July 2021, Sydney, Australia.
"'We are here because you were there’, the role of colonial circulations and imperial wars in understanding one’s marginalised position in France", RGS–IBG annual conference, Newcastle (UK), Aug 2022, United Kingdom
"The impossibility of citizenship for racialized inhabitants of marginalized neighborhoods in France", RGS–IBG annual conference, Aug 2021, London, United Kingdom

Dissemination among peers (seminars, workshops)

"Marginalised Social Housing Neighbourhoods as lost grounds of the republic, a decolonial approach", Urban Matters, University of Basel, 1-2 March 2021
*Geographies of peace in the context of urban violence in France", Varieties of Peace Network Virtual Research Workshop, Exploring and Explaining Varieties of Peace, 4 Feb 2021
"Agir pour la Paix: how a group or marginalized youth became actors for peace after the slaughter of their friends", Varieties of Peace Network Virtual Research Workshop, Challenges of making peace researchable - methodological pluralism, opportunities and pitfalls, June 9-10 2021
"Creating Space for Agonism: Making Room for subalternised Voices in Peace Research", Varieties of Peace Network, Launch Special Issue, 19 Dec 2022
"Espaces et racialisation – Se faire une place", Séminaire JEDI “Les dimensions spatiales du processus de racialisation”, Laboratoire d'Urbanisme (LAB'URBA) in Marne la Vallée, 13 October 2021

Dissemination to a wider audience

Frieden und Krieg, Tour de Lorraine, 2023
Project results have been disseminated during the Tour de Lorraine, which is an important annual event in Bern that draws a large audience of over thousand visitors. It is an important occasion for learning and networking among progressive civil society organisations. The 2023 edition (20-29 April) was dedicated to the theme Frieden und Krieg (Peace and War), and I was part of the organizing team. I contributed theoretically, contentwise, through mobilising networks, through moderation and through organizing the kick-off event. See the program for details:
The study translates research results into policy recommendations. With the guidance of swisspeace, research results have been translated into practice-oriented recommendations and have been shared with practitioners in peacebuilding and development cooperation, in order to support their initiatives. This knowledge exchange has taken place in collaboration with KOFF, the Swiss platform for peacebuilding.
Opening Event "Frieden und Krieg", Tour de Lorraine 20 March 2023
Graffiti Villeneuve, 28 Aug. 2017