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Building a Peace We Don’t Know: Subjunctive Technologies in Peacebuilding

Project description

Peace processes are often difficult to plan out. They may be characterized by stalemates
between conflict parties, or new political dynamics that lead to setbacks. Very often,
organizations that operate in the field, have limited knowledge about what is needed in a
given context. There are no blueprints and no easy recipes. Therefore, peacebuilders
often do not exactly know how peace can be achieved, but they need to act as if peace
was possible.

This necessity seemingly stands in tension with the increasingly important role of
technology in peace processes. More often than not, peacebuilding is supported through
specific technologies that focus on producing evidence about the world as it is. For
instance, technologies support the collection of evidence, for the monitoring of cease-fires
or the implementation of peace agreements. The project draws on social and cultural
theories that stress the role of “subjunctive” practices for the construction of temporary
“as-if” worlds that help to navigate through situations characterized by uncertainty. It
introduces the concept of “subjunctive peacebuilding technologies” and asks how they can
support peacebuilders to move forward when no easy answers can be found. The project
will explore the characteristics and functions of subjunctive peacebuilding technologies. It
will ask to which degree existing peacebuilding technologies can serve subjunctive
peacebuilding functions. Moreover, the project will provide insights into the role of
peacebuilding practitioners in enabling subjunctive technologies through the tweaking of
existing tools.

The project will contribute to widening conventional understanding of technology and
direct the attention beyond the current focus on evidence-based peacebuilding planning
and implementation. To this end, the project will develop a first compendium of subjunctive
peacebuilding technologies. It will also explore how subjunctive peacebuilding
technologies could be embedded in the routines of peacebuilding organizations.


This project is part of the SPARK programme financed by the Swiss National Science Fondation.