Public Administration in Contested Societies

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17 Citations (Scopus)


The management of conflict has long been of concern to social scientists, urban planners and community-minded citizens. While differing mechanisms of managing ethno-national or ethno-linguistic tensions exist, few studies advance our understanding of how conflicts are actually managed – in other words, the study of ethnic peace. In this study I draw on the experiences of two differing examples of ethnic peace: Belfast and Brussels, in the expectation that other contested cities that may one day consider power-sharing as a form of governance such as Kirkuk, Jerusalem, Nicosia or Mostar, may learn from what have been categorised as sites of successful power-sharing. While there are few studies of ethnic peace, fewer studies again seek to understand the role of the elite level bureaucrat in sustaining this peace. This dissertation fills this gap in the literature, investigating the politician-bureaucrat relationship within the contested urban environment of two differing mechanisms of consociationalism. The dissertation ascertains the extent of discretion available to the bureaucratic elite and further, through determining core beliefs of interviewees, establishes how this discretion is employed. Methodologically, the dissertation draws on a multi-method approach, consisting of semi-structured interviews and a method well established in Psychology but relative new to Political Science: Q Methodology. The empirical findings show that the bureaucratic elite influence the conflict management process. While bureaucrats are found to share a number of core governance beliefs, a number of categories of association can also be identified. These categories are not based on a primary identity, but a secondary learned identity. The findings therefore also propose that a professional or societal attachment can supersede a primary attachment within the public administration of a contested society. In a number of instances, bureaucrats are found to actively represent these secondary learned attachments over their primary identities. The findings define bureaucratic activity in two instances of ethnic peace, as well as contributing to the literature on active representation. Moreover, it is suggested that the role of the bureaucrat in the conflict management process requires much more scholarly attention if political level power-sharing agreements are to be sustainable.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages248
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-29815-7
ISBN (Print)9781137298140
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 6 Apr 2014


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