Second Bi-annual PACSA meeting, Austria 2009

Continuities and ruptures between conflict, post-conflict and peace
Second Bi-annual PACSA meeting, Burg Schlaining, Austria, 9th- 11th October 2009
Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR), Peace Center, Burg Schlaining, Austria

OrganisersThe 2nd Biennial PACSA Meeting brought together young scholars and some senior scholars in a highly successful and inspiring meeting in Stadtschlaining, Burgenland. The enchanting atmosphere was mostly due to the effective organization of Michael Lidauer at the ASPR and the support of all PACSA-officials: Erella Grassiani (Amsterdam), Nerina Weiss (Oslo) and Alexander Horstmann (Göttingen).

PACSA is a European network of social anthropologists who are interested in studying peace and conflict by putting people in the forefront of their analysis. Anthropologists organized in EASA felt that peace studies in Europe are by and large dominated by political sciences and international relations, favouring an institutional approach. Anthropologists are keen to emphasize the agency of people who are confronted by conflict and war with their theoretical approach, fieldwork and qualitative methodology. PACSA thus contributes greatly to make this critical and reflexive approach to peace and conflict more visible through networks, meetings and publications.

PACSA_2009The papers presented during the meeting reflect this innovative approach to peace and conflict studies. The organizers were happy to win well-known anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom (University of Notre Dame, USA) as key-note speaker. In a very stimulating, post-modern talk, Carolyn tied the life of a young boy and victim of war in Mozambique to the underground economy that is nourishing the war and which is nurtured by the war, e.g. drugs trade, trade in pharmaceutics, trade in small arms and fire-weapons. Carolyn noted the gigantic importance of this illegal market and the dramatic consequences for the perpetuation of violence and war. She also pointed to the difficult and risky business of doing fieldwork in war zones as well as on the underground economy. She made the interesting observation that the young boy was keenly aware of this business and wanted Carolyn to report on it. Carolyn’s research is characterized by empathy and taking sides with the young boy who represented the unheard voices or as Carolyn puts it, all what cannot be said in the academia.

PACSA_2009The second key-note was delivered by Maria Six-Hohenbalken (Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences) who gave us insight into the multi-cultural arena of the Burgenland. The Burgenland has a long history of coexistence of Austrians, Croatians, Hungarians and Roma. Maria pointed out that this multi-cultural character is largely suppressed in favour of the image of a homogenous Austrian countryside. More serious, discrimination of minorities and foreigners prevails in the area and these groups were persecuted in the Nazi era. Civil society organizations are minuscule and not able to counter conservative forces. Yet, also today minorities come out in the public sphere and aim to ascertain their rights. Maria’s paper not only gave the participants an excellent introduction to the Burgenland, but also illustrated the resistance of powerful rural élites to acknowledge the multi-cultural character of the region and the rights of minorities that are associated with it. The key-note also illustrates how the co-existence of different groups has changed drastically through the violence of the Nazi regime.

Many papers presented and discussed in the panels followed this creative and reflexive approach to peace and conflict studies. Instead of referring to every individual paper, I identify clusters and overlaps of common themes.