Ethnographic Peace Research: The Underappreciated Benefits of Long-Term Fieldwork

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While Peace Studies has always incorporated different research methodologies, large-N quantitative methods and state-level findings have dominated the literature and had most influence on policy and practice. Today, however, the limitations of peace interventions are commonly identified with the institutional, state-centric, and technocratic approaches associated with such limited understandings and their resultant policies. This paper argues, therefore, that the inability of these methods to examine local experiences of conflict, transition, and peace in diverse sociocultural settings contributes to inadequate policy formation and, thus, to problematic interventions. Indeed, the recent ‘local turn’ and its focus on the everyday, resistance, hybridity, and friction demands research that can better interpret local experiences of conflict, transition, and peace and, thereby, discover more locally salient practice. While this paper argues that an Ethnographic Peace Research (EPR) agenda must be central to such efforts, it also argues against applying the ethnographic label to work that is more suitably described as qualitative (site visits, interviews, focus groups, etc.). The paper argues that long-term fieldwork and close engagement with the subjects of peacebuilding must be required within any EPR agenda. The underappreciated benefits of such fieldwork are illustrated with examples from research in northern Sierra Leone.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-676
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Peacekeeping
Issue number5
Early online date8 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Peace Studies
  • Peace Research
  • Ethnography
  • Fieldwork
  • Methodology


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