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Identity, Resilience and Social Justice: Peace-making in a Neoliberal Global Order



Change log


Wilson, Emma 


Over the last decade ‘inclusivity’ – or the selection of a broad range of armed and non-armed social actors to participate in peace processes – has emerged as the fundamental principle of peace process design. As external international peace mediation theoretically no longer seeks to dictate liberal peace outcomes, but merely aims to facilitate participatory processes of locally-driven social change, the question of ‘who gets a seat at the table?’ has become of vital importance for the success and outcome of peace processes. The broad theoretical rationale behind ‘inclusivity’ is that a process that includes the views of a wide range of local stakeholders is more likely to address the social needs of conflict societies, produce resilient social systems and have legitimacy at the local level because it is ‘owned’ by those who have contributed to and made the decisions. The principle of inclusive peace process design has been operationalised through the inclusion of unconventional violent non-state actors, women, civil society, youth, opposition political parties, ethnic minorities, religious actors, business actors and other actors such as indigenous communities, internally displaced people, diasporas and refugees. Focusing on the social exclusion issues of misrecognition and maldistribution as the primary driver of violence in the fragmented and localised neoliberal conflict zone, this thesis argues that inclusive peace process design has had limited success in achieving its objectives of legitimacy and empowerment of marginalised actors to place issues of social inclusion on the negotiating agendas of peace processes. In many peace processes, social inclusion strategies are actively resisted by elites and the general public. The peace and conflict studies literature lacks theoretical frameworks and concepts to explain why social inclusion strategies face elite resistance and despite small successes in elevating the voices of elite women and civil society groups, has largely failed to engage intersecting race, gender and class issues in the politics of peace processes. This reflects an emphasis on normative approaches to inclusivity grounded in the international human right to political participation at the expense of the power politics of inclusion/exclusion characteristic of neoliberal societies that limit the participation of some social groups in inclusive peace processes. The normative approach has produced scholarship on the discourse of inclusivity in international organisations or the inclusion of singular identity groups such as women or youth in peace processes. Where the conflict context is considered it is focused on the interaction of illiberal elites with liberal human rights frameworks. Drawing on critical social theory and mixed methods research, this thesis develops a critical framework to understand the politics of social inclusion in peace processes by placing the ‘hype’ around inclusivity within the context of the global international security paradigm of inclusion/exclusion that permeates and structures peace process design and the conflict societies that peace mediation seeks to support. It argues that the politics of inclusion – or the setting of the boundaries of the ‘political’ in peace processes -- is a dynamic interplay between dominant liberal political inclusion and liberal security exclusion narratives of elites, and resistant social justice discourse, which consists of the class politics of redistribution and the identity politics of recognition of unconventional violent non-state actors, social movements and subaltern actors. It argues the structural power of the politics-crime binary that underpins both inclusion/exclusion and inclusivity narratives operates to persistently criminalise and exclude class politics, unconventional violent non-state actors and marginalised actors from the political sphere, leaving the social exclusion that promotes conflict in the neoliberal era to apolitical community mediation to increase resilience. It outlines a new social inclusion strategy based on the values and objectives of social justice and sociological conflict analysis as a pathway to expand the politics of peace processes to include social issues of recognition and redistribution. It demonstrates the relevance of the critical framework with empirical evidence from four peace processes – Myanmar, Colombia, Mali and San Salvador (gang truce).





Abdelrahman, Maha


peace-making, social justice, neoliberalism, gender, inclusivity


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge