Researching Geographical Frontiers Between Violence and Peace

22 December 2012

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Call for Papers: Royal Geographical Society with IBG Annual Conference
London, 28th-30th August 2013

Mary Cobbett & Katherine Brickell

Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London

(Co-sponsored by Participatory Geographies Research Group and Political Geography Research Group)

Researching violence, whether its prevalence, perceptions of it or its prevention is beset by methodological and ethical complexities. Many types of violence, such as that occurring in ‘private’ spaces of the home or intimate relationships can rarely be directly observed. Women are particularly affected by this ‘hidden’ violence. Additionally, conventional methods of interviews and surveys have often been limited in understanding the complexities of violence or capturing the temporal and spatial dynamics of violent events. Whether violence occurs in ‘private’ or ‘public’ spaces, however, the emotive and sensitive nature of the topic creates methodological challenges. The potential to cause harm, direct or indirect, to participants (as well as to researchers) makes violence an unsettling choice of research.

Yet, researching violence (and its absences) also has the potential to lead to positive change and to redress what has been identified as an overwhelming focus on ‘war’ or conflict in comparison to ‘peace’ in political geographical research. This can be approached both indirectly, through new understandings gleaned, and directly, through participation in research itself – ‘getting messy’ by moving beyond ‘dry and distant analysis’ as Sara Koopman (2011) has termed this. This could be pursued, for example, through facilitating processes that confront violent views or through creating safe spaces for those who have experienced violence to come to terms with their experiences. In this vein, the session is again interested in the recent and growing focus of Geographers on the inter-relations between ‘war’ and ‘peace’ (Loyd, 2012; Megoran, 2010; Williams and McConnell, 2011). What methodological approaches can scholars use to explore their mutual constitution and the potential for transition between violence to peace? How have Geographers become purposely or unintentionally entangled in such (everyday) politics through their fieldwork?

Taking the above into account, researching bodies, spaces and scales between violence and peace can be seen as a ‘new frontier’ in geographical research, an arena requiring innovative approaches, but through which societal challenges can be addressed. Abstracts are invited which reflect on methodological challenges or discuss innovative approaches relating to any aspect of violence, peace, justice or hope. Themes could include (but are not limited to):

• Participatory methods
• Ethics and harm in violence research
• Challenging violence through research
• Research with children
• Research in conflict zones
• Measuring prevalence
• Capturing dynamics of violence/peace
• Understanding perceptions of violence/peace

We are looking for abstracts of 300 words to be sent to Mary.Cobbett.2012@live.rhul.ac.uk by Wednesday 30th January 2013.

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