Peace as Betrayal: On the human cost of relational peacebuilding in transitional contexts

Wilhelm Verwoerd, Alistair Little, Brandon Hamber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the microdynamics of intragroup betrayal and self-betrayal that can be evoked by relational peacebuilding between groups. The painful accusation of betrayal by close, family type group members and internally feeling like a betrayer as a result of working with the ‘other side’ is presented as an underestimated human cost of relational peacebuilding. This understanding emerged from an international ‘Beyond Dehumanisation’ research project, which included experienced peace practitioners from South Africa, the Israel-Palestine region and the conflict in and about Northern Ireland. The emerging diagnostic framework is supported by (and provide empirical support for) theories of betrayal that stress how deeply relational betrayal is. The resonance with Margalit’s theory of betrayal as the ‘undermining of thick relations’ is especially strong. ‘Peace as betrayal’ suggests the need for more practical support for peacebuilders and can also be applied more widely to render resistance to transitional justice processes more visible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Transitional Justice
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2022


  • Betrayal
  • betrayers
  • intragroup peacebuilding
  • human cost
  • microdynamics
  • resistance to transitional justice


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