Exploring how context matters in addressing the impact of armed conflict

Brandon Hamber, Elizabeth Gallagher, Stevan Weine, Inger Agger, Saliha Bava, Mauricio Gaborit, R. Srinivasa Murthy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter introduces a three-year study that explored through case studies on Guatemala, East Jerusalem, Indian Kashmir, Mozambique, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Sri Lanka how best to intervene from a psychosocial perspective following armed conflict so as to maximise the potential to contribute to constructive social change. The chapter explores and defines three areas of social change, that is peacebuilding, development and wider forms of social transformation. The chapter introduces the concept of psychosocial practices to better capture the wide array of approaches those affected by armed conflict use to promote well-being. These can range from local rituals and informal community support to structured externally-driven psychosocial projects such as counselling, income-generation and capacity building. The case studies focus on a range of constituencies (e.g. victims groups, migrants, young people) that operate in different social spaces (e.g. the court room, indigenous healing rituals, the therapy room) and are driven by different practitioners (e.g. mental health workers, local community, activists). The chapter begins from the premise that armed conflict and the political violence that flows from it is deeply contextual and in dealing with the impact of armed conflict, context matters. Interrelational and contextual understandings of the impact of political violence are explored. It is argued that all interventions shape the social context, whether inadvertently or not. Core questions are posed in this chapter and discussed, specifically can psychosocial interventions and practices change social context even if only gradually. The chapter asserts that if we do not understand the relationship between such interventions and the social context they have the potential to reinforce the status quo or create changes in the social milieu that in themselves may cause distress or undermine the very efforts those engaging in such programming are seeking to make.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-09936-1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 14 Nov 2014


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