Faculty Research Theme: Peace and Conflict in Africa

In 2013 the Faculty of Humanities received funding from the Mellon Foundation for the development of a number of faculty research themes. The Department of Political Sciences, together with its associate, the Institute for Strategic and Political Affairs (ISPA), was tasked with developing a research project on ‘Peace and conflict in Africa’. The project leader is Prof Sandy Africa, who works closely with Prof Maxi Schoeman in the development of the project. Other departments involved are Psychology and Social Work. Dr ‘Funmi Olonisakin (King’s College, London and the African Leadership Centre, Nairobi), was appointed as expert researcher on the project theme and Ms Toyin Ajao received a Mellon scholarship to fund her doctoral research within this project. ‘Peace and Conflict’ is an inescapable theme for scholars and students involved in the social sciences in South Africa. The African continent is faced with many challenges in making the transition from conflict to sustainable peace: these challenges impact on states and societies at the political, economic and social levels, within national territories and across boundaries of race, class, gender and territory. South Africa is deeply involved in peace missions across the continent and its foreign policy focuses heavily on promoting peace, security and development in Africa.  

The aims of the Peace and Conflict multidisciplinary project are:

  1. To contribute to empirical, evidence-based research around the complexities of peace-building post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa. 
  2. To enhance multidisciplinary research efforts around peace and conflict in Africa in the Faculty of Humanities.
  3. To enrich the methodological exposure of scholars and students involved in the research through collaborative work.
  4. To improve the publications output of the Faculty of Humanities and thereby establish its presence as a global thought leader on the subject of peace and conflict.
  5. To extend and deepen exchanges between networks of scholars and students with an interest in the field of peace and conflict in Africa.
  6. To promote public engagement and discourse around the research theme of peace and conflict from a multidisciplinary perspective.

The research project provides a platform for collaboration between scholars and students, primarily but not exclusively, in the following disciplines: Political Sciences, Sociology, Social Work, History, Psychology and the multi-disciplinary field of Gender Studies. In each of these disciplines, research work and scholarship relating to peace and conflict is being conducted. This multidisciplinary research project gives the participants the opportunity to transcend the empirical observations and theoretical insights of their respective disciplines and to explore new ways of seeing and approaching the research material. Already a number of master’s students are focusing their research on topics relevant to this research theme.

The research project leverages the extensive networks to which individual members are already connected.   An example is the African Peace-building Network (APN) established by the Social Sciences Research Council in March 2012 (see its portal http:/forums.ssrc.org/kujenga-amani).    The APN supports independent African research on conflict-affected countries and neighbouring regions of the continent and the integration of African knowledge into global policy communities. APN activities are largely organised in Africa and accomplished through cooperation with African research organisations and networks. The project is also closely aligned to the work of the Centre for Mediation in Africa, attached to the Department of Political Sciences. 

The research project could have significant policy relevance, as South Africa increases its profile as a development actor on the African continent, through the formation of the South African National Planning and Development (SANPAD) agency.   Solid and relevant research, of a multidisciplinary nature, is an important asset, and whilst not tied to the agency, the research project will strive to be policy relevant in the specific project it undertakes.

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