Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Engaging with training and practitioners

Last week I had a really interesting set of conversations with a group of practitioners who attended a training course on which I was teaching. Two of them are working on the Turkish border with Syria, one had a distinguished career with the ICRC and UN, and one was a university professor in the USA.

The course was on conflict resolution, transformation and peacebuilding, and it was great to have time to debate details from our diverse perspectives, and analyse the changes that have taken place in the last few years. The challenges of communicating with people in Syria, analysing and responding to the forms of violence that are taking place, including the forms of violence that face refugees in Europe provided a rich seam for discussion. On the one hand they demand a rethink of particular configurations of peace and conflict, but at the same time they reiterate the need to remain critical of the ways that power reinforces patterns of opportunity and constraint.

The venue gave us the chance to enjoy some pretty stunning views of London in the sun!

In other news, I'm happy to announce that my 2013 book, Formal Peace and Informal War is now available in paperback :)

Friday, 11 March 2016

Talk coming up in Edinburgh next week, with the wonderful people from the In Place of War project


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Kristallnacht Anniversary and Justice for Migrants

Last week was the 77th anniversary of the Kristallnacht 'Night of Broken Glass' pogroms that saw attacks on Jewish homes, shops and synagogues and the deaths of 100 Jewish people in Germany, 1938. Never Again Ever campaigns to engage actively with the process of memorialisation, and last week held an event at SOAS for the Kristallnacht Anniversary and Justice for Migrants. Speakers were asked to talk about the violence taking place in Europe now in the light of the Nazi Holocaust.

Reflecting on the Nazi Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide of 1994, I presented some ideas about the relationship between violence and development, the political, social and legal processes that make violence apparently necessary or inevitable, and some ways to think about and organise resistance.

We also gave a capoeira performance. Capoeira is an art form that developed amongst slave and ex-slave communities in Brazil. Through its music and movement it re-iterates a subaltern history. Capoeira generates a space for creativity and community and provides channel for the continuity of the art form.

Capoeira Bem-Vindo

The audience was invited to write their thoughts on paper darts, and here was one of the reflections.

"Why the capoeira music and dance? It reminded me of how we remember - capoeira is the dance of slaves now spread in celebration of freedom! I wish we could dance the horror (?) in the same way"


Thursday, 3 September 2015


We are looking forward to welcoming the new MSc Violence, Conflict and Development students in a few short weeks' time!
Several people have asked about preparatory readings. There are no textbooks for the course, but if you would like to get to know the research that we do, the easiest way is to browse through our publications pages: Chris Cramer, Jonathan DiJohn, Jonathan Goodhand, Laura Hammond, Tania Kaiser and Zoe Marriage.

I have spent the summer in Salvador, Brazil, consolidating my work on capoeira and security. You can read my blog here.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Looking forward to next year!

It's the end of term... and at the same time we are looking forward to next year! Today we met to discuss MSc Violence, Conflict and Development for the coming academic term, and then went straight on to our exam board meeting for the year that is finishing. We took advantage of the sunny weather and this abundance of meetings to get the first *ever* VCD team photograph.

The VCD teaching team L-R:
Laura Hammond, Colette Harris, Christopher Cramer, Zoe Marriage, Tania Kaiser, Jonathan Goodhand 

If you have an offer for next year and are wondering what to read before coming to SOAS in October, all of us have staff pages that can be found here:
If you select the 'publications' tab, you will find that several articles can be downloaded for free. You can get something of an idea of the kind of research that we do, including geographic specialism and disciplinary perspective.

We are looking forward to welcoming the new cohort in a few months' time!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bloomsbury Humanitarian Debate

Last Monday I took part in the Bloomsbury Humanitarian Debate, a forum organised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Birkbeck and MSF. The theme was the securitisation of aid, a subject that is of increasing analytical and political significance in light of current issues of migration across the Mediterranean (and the resourcing of responses), contexts of development and security in areas in which donors have played military roles (particularly Afghanistan) and the existence of IS, which presents development policy makers and practitioners with challenges that disrupt conventional understandings of the state, responsibility, needs and assistance.

The panel was drawn together from academic/research institutions, aid organisations and the military and, as the debate was hosted by the LSHTM, there was a strong theme of public health provision. There was broad agreement across the panel that security has been defined by the global north and that, as a result, the forms of security that are promoted through development tend to reflect powerful northern interests. There was less agreement in terms of the operational solutions to this exercise of power: at times it seemed that the usual distinction between pragmatism and principle had been re-cast as humanitarian principles allow a certain pragmatic distance from political pressure. At other times, the weight of opinion was behind the possibility of working within a diverse array of donor imperatives that allowed for effective aid to be given in particular circumstances.

The debate was drawn together around three questions: Understanding security; responding to security needs; and Security and humanitarian actions.

Full details of the debate can be found here:

As ever it was great to catch up with a couple of VCD alumni who came along and hear about what they have been doing since completing the course! :)  

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

In Place of War - and capoeira

A few months back I made contact with Ruth Daniel who heads up the In Place of War project that promotes art from areas of conflict. It's an amazing project - full details here:
As she was hosting an event in London last week I headed down with my capoeira group to support it. It was a great evening of capoeira, inspiring talks and fantastic music. And if that wasn't enough good things in one place, we had VCD students past, present and future there!