Dealing with Violence – Resolving Conflicts in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Dealing with Violence – Resolving Conflicts in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Christine Hatzky / Brigitte Reinwald / Wolfgang Gabbert / Hinnerk Onken, Centre for Atlantic and Global Studies, Leibniz University Hannover (CEAGS); Volkswagen Foundation
Vom - Bis
25.07.2022 - 27.07.2022
Ecem Temürtürkan, Historisches Seminar / Javier Lastra-Bravo, Institut für Soziologie, Leibniz Universität Hannover

Core topic of the conference was dealing with different processes of violence as part of social crises as constant features in African, Latin American, and Caribbean societies since the beginning of European expansion in the late 15th century. Violence appeared in different forms, such as conquest and colonization, the slave trade and enslavement, repression in authoritarian political systems, civil wars, ethnic violence, feminicidios, and organized crime. The aforementioned societies have continuously developed strategies for managing conflicts and ending processes of violence. The conference took note of the development that recent peace and conflict research has taken an interdisciplinary approach: history, anthropology, and sociology primarily address issues of continuity and change and the social, cultural, economic, and political origins of both violence and the settlement of conflicts. Film, literature, and cultural studies engage with the collective memory of violence and the processes of remembering and forgetting in the context of specific forms, such as trauma narratives.

More than 40 academics and practitioners from 20 countries gathered in Hannover to discuss the various forms, origins, outcomes, and strategies for resolving violent processes in African, Latin American, and Caribbean societies. They compared the similarities and differences between various processes of violence and peace. The conference program was supplemented by two online panels that took place in June.[1]

After the welcome addresses by Volker Epping (Hannover), Adelheid Wessler (Volkswagen Foundation), and Christine Hatzky (Hannover), MARÍA SOCORRO TABUENCA CÓRDOBA (El Paso) opened the symposium with the first keynote on the U.S.-Mexico border. As cultural studies scholar she discussed the necessity to acknowledge not only the real, but also the symbolic aspects of border-related violence. She argued that borders can be considered as entities that are independent of the nation state, but contain the potential to represent, (re-)produce and spread discriminatory discourses, and showed the necessity of a discourse analysis to decode the use of normative language surrounding border conflicts.

The first panel aimed for an interdisciplinary perspective on lynching violence in order to identify similarities and particularities of this practice, considering the specific cultural and historical contexts in Africa, in the Americas, and in a global perspective.

NICHOLAS RUSH SMITH (New York) opened the section with a lecture on rights and vigilantism in South Africa, focusing on the question of why vigilante violence occurs after cases of arrest and whether vigilantes respond to police failure.

MICHAEL PFEIFER (New York) continued this discussion with his presentation on American lynchings. He presented the social boundaries of this collective practice and asked whether “rough justice” was an adequate paraphrase for this form of execution. He called into question the view that it is possible to perform and establish collectivity as well as community through the act of lynching.

In her comment, Tessa Diphoorn (Utrecht) followed Pfeifer’s train of thought. She also triggered a controversial discussion on whether lynching could be regarded as a mechanism of speaking out or not. Diphoorn put an emphasis on questions of power, injustice, and exclusion in the context of lynching: when dominant groups are the ones who are performing the lynching, this has to be considered in the framing of the discourse around this practice.

The main focus of the second panel was on conflict management processes that take place on levels beneath the nation state.

KRISTINA DIETZ (Vienna) opened this panel with a lecture on conflicts over resources in Colombia. She underlined the fact that social activists are continually being displaced, threatened and killed in spite of the (symbolic) peace agreement in Colombia from 2016. She expanded the perspectives on this topic by asking for the class, gender, and racial dimensions of the violence (still) perpetrated against social activists in Colombia.

CHUKWUMA UME (Giessen) presented on conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence among farmers and pastoralists. He pointed out that the Savannah Region is affected the most by the conflict with Boko Haram. Ume chose a differentiated approach to identify the various drivers of the conflict instead of only focusing on the predominantly mentioned group of actors, Boko Haram, like the Nigerian state does. In addition, Ume took economic aspects and climate variables into consideration and thereby expanded the methodological approach towards this topic.

Thereafter, REMADJI HOINATHY (N’Djaména) spoke about vigilance committees and the fight against Boko Haram. He centered his presentation around the exclusivity of the state, the legitimacy regarding questions of regulation, security, and control as well as the necessity of local defense groups.

To sum up these understandings of the conflict, Gemma van der Haar (Wageningen) stated that the use of physical violence is serving different purposes. She distinguished between violence as a means of enforcing interests and violence as a means of security building and argued that it is necessary to take these different purposes and their entanglements into consideration. Such conceptions of violence could be regarded as a social construct.

The third section aimed to create a space for young researchers to present their projects. NIKOLAS KOULOGLOU (Paris) gave insights into the new typology of “gray areas” in Mexico and Colombia, discussing whether it is possible to find peace within existing structures of organized crime.

JOAQUIN ZAJAC (Buenos Aires) spoke about the presence of the Argentine National Gendarmerie and the different forms of violence that are taking place in the socially vulnerable neighborhoods in the southern part of Buenos Aires.

CAROLINA SÁNCHEZ (New Brunswick) dealt with the question of how culture can contribute to overcome violence. She focused on indigenous cosmological visions and neocolonial extractivism in Colombia and Mexico.

Section four aimed to contribute to the debate by analyzing how visual representations of violence (photographs, videos, social media, comics, and art) play an essential role in constructing violent spaces in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

GABRIELA ZAMORANO (ZAMORA Michoacán) talked about erasures of criminal subjects in contemporary Michoacán. She focused on the social construction of atmospheres of virtual violence in Mexican daily life through social media and virtual messaging, analyzing the forms of anonymity, identification, and social representation of the figure of the narco.

MARÍA EUGENIA ULFE (Lima) dealt with postconflict neoliberal Peru, talking about narratives of violence from a visual anthropological perspective, focusing on the example of the Sendero Luminoso in Peru.

ALICIA C. DECKER (State College) examined violence in African graphic novels of war. She analyzed how some graphic novels generate discriminatory stereotypes, thereby reproducing colonial and postcolonial structures of violence.

The following conversation with FREDDY TSIMBA (Kinshasa) a sculptor and visual artist from Kinshase, Congo, on the exhibition „Art of Countering Violent Extremism in Kenya” integrated a perspective from the arts into the conference. Tsimba talked about his sculptural work, experiences, and personal reflections regarding the representation of violence in and through art, the materials he uses, and their symbolism as memory objects.

The roundtable that closed this day focused on gender and violence, with Chris Dolan (Kampala), Henri Myrttinen (Berlin), Montserrat Sagot Rodriguez (San Jose), and María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba (El Paso) as discussant. The speakers focused on the causes, effects, continuities, and transformations of specific forms of gender-based violence on the one hand and locally anchored concepts to address these dynamics of violence on the other. The discussion began with personal approaches to the complex of gender and violence. Myrttinen stated that all types of violence have a gendered component. Sagot Rodriguez added the component of power linked to violence. The discussants agreed that gender-based violence creates psychological but also economic and emotional effects on the victims.

The Africa-focused panel 5 discussed the religious aspects of violent processes in urban environments, the religious instrumentalization of intra-societal conflicts over land resources as well as de-radicalization strategies for dealing with Salafism and Islamic extremism in conflicts in civil society.

This section was opened by BRITTA FREDE (Bayreuth) who contextualized terrorism in Mauritania, pointing out the legitimization of Islamic violence used by references to the “Qur'an or the Hadith”. This leads to conflicts over definitions of power about what is the true Islam, generating problems of religious legitimization.

HALKANO ABDI WARIO (Njoro) started with a definition of “counter jihadism”, pointing out that it is a type of counter-terrorism prevention focused on communities. He then drew attention to how religious leaders could be seen as essential protagonists in countering violence.

OBVIOUS KATSAURA (Johannesburg) spoke about religion and violence in Johannesburg. He explained the concept of the atmosphere of violence, which he explicitly linked to religious violence in urban spaces as a continuum between visible violence and invisible violence, such as structural and psychic violence. According to him, religion plays a fundamental role in these processes of violence since it exerts a new interpretation of violent acts.

In his comment, Abdoulaye Sounaye (Berlin) emphasized the importance of the relationship between religion and violence and the specific contexts where it develops. He suggested discussing “community imaginaries” and their connection with concepts such as citizenship and communities under construction.

The sixth panel was again dedicated to the research of emerging scholars. In her doctoral thesis, NOMPUMELELO ZINHLE MANZINI (State College) examines violence against women in South Africa, concentrating on the concept of epistemic and discursive violence.

In the frame of her presentation on institutional and family memories, MERCEDES FIGUEROA (Berlin) captured a perspective “from below” on the role of the military forces in Peru’s civil war. She worked with resources from the intimate sphere such as personal letters, including family narratives to approach the disputed perception of the perpetrators.

FRANZISKA ENGLERT (Cologne) gave insights into her work on transitional justice and telenovelas in Colombia that focuses on (visual) storytelling concerning the internal armed conflict and the corresponding coping strategies.

In the second key note, DEREJE FEYISSA DORI (Addis Abeba) gave insights into inter-group violence in Ethiopia. He gave an overview of global forms of federalism, specifically Western federalism, and asked how they handle ethnic diversity, democracy, and respect for human rights. In this context, he addressed the conditions of federalism in the West, the situation of minority groups, the development of their demands, and the structural conditions of Western societies and opened perspectives for analyzing multinational federations and their relevance for Africa, emphasizing forms of post-colonial state-building.

In the closing section, the organizers of the event wrapped up the main points of the conference’s discussions, the insights they gained, and the aspects that were identified for future research, among them questions of gender, the role of the state as well as the combination of local and global perspectives.

The in-person contributions of the conference were supplemented by two online panels. ELISA CRUZ RUEDA (Chiapas) started into the eighth section with a lecture on structural reforms of the energy sector in Mexico, raising awareness for indigenous rights in the context of local challenges and consequences of an infrastructure project of this magnitude.
JOSEPH MUJERE (Maseru) spoke about Chinese mining companies and the dynamics of artisanal and small-scale chromite mining in Mapanzure Communal Areas, Zimbabwe, concentrating on local positions in order to sensitize for microlevel conflicts that go along with certain economic patterns.

ANDREA BEHRENDS (Bayreuth) examined petroleum production in Chad and offered a broadening of perspective by drawing on different time levels. By this means, continuities and discontinuities in the conflict-laden petroleum production processes could be identified better.

PHILIPP NAUCKE (Marburg) used his presentation on conflict transformation despite para- state violence in Colombia and Guatemala to indicate that there are possibilities to change violent structures while simultaneously (still) being surrounded by those conditions.

ESTHER IKENYE (Pretoria/Benin) opened the ninth section that was dedicated to young researcher’s projects, by presenting her project on the protection of women’s health and rights in conflict and post-conflict situations in Nigeria. Her juridical approach to the necessity of protecting sexual rights in situations of upheaval complemented the historical and sociological perspectives on “conflict and gender”.

In her talk about violence against women in Cape Town, South Africa, FUNGAI CHIRONGOMA (Cape Town) emphasized that religion works as an additional axis of oppression for women who are already affected by gender-based violence.

CATHERINE AKURUT (Port Elizabeth) discussed the societal obstacles that male victims of sexual violence face in the process of trauma counselling in Africa.

ANGELA NAVARRETE CRUZ (Stuttgart) closed the online session with a lecture on the agrarian roots of the Colombian armed conflict and peacebuilding strategies in rural areas. Since she identified unequal land distribution as the central trigger for the civil war in Colombia, she appealed to take peacebuilding strategies into consideration that aim to eliminate the initial problem of land distribution in a sustainable way.

Conference overview:

Opening of the symposium and welcome addresses

Volker Epping (Hannover) / Christine Hatzky (Hannover) / Adelheid Wessler (Hannover)

Keynote I

Chair: Christine Hatzky (Hannover)

María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba (El Paso): Re-positioning the U.S.- Mexico Border: Images and Discourses of Violence and Perhaps Peace

Section 1: Lynching in Transregional Perspective

Chair: Hinnerk Onken (Hannover)

Nicholas Rush Smith (New York): Rights in Translation: Vigilantism and the Meanings of Institutional Effectiveness and Failure in South Africa

Michael Pfeifer (New York): American Lynchings in Global Context

Comment: Tessa Diphoorn (Utrecht)

Section 2: Confronting Terrorist Violence and Resource Injustice: Local Communities and Vigilance Committees as Cases in Point

Chair: Wolfgang Gabbert (Hannover) / Brigitte Reinwald (Hannover)

Kristina Dietz (Vienna): Violence against Activists: Conflicts over Resources in Colombia in Times of Peace

Chukwuma Ume (Giessen): Assessing the Determinants and Dynamics for Conflict Resolution and Peaceful Coexistence among Farmers and Pastoralists: Political Ecology Approach

Remadji Hoinathy (N’Djaména): La participacion des communautés à la production de la sécurité: les comités de vigilance et la lutte contre Boko Haram (Community Participation in Producing Security: Vigilance Committees and the Fight Against Boko Haram)

Comment: Gemma van der Haar (Wageningen)

Section 3: Short presentations: Political Violence – Political Solutions?

Chair: Mathias Bös (Hannover)

Nikolas Kouloglou (Paris): The New Typology of “Gray Areas” in Mexico and Colombia, and Beyond: Challenging State Dominance

Joaquin Zajac (Buenos Aires): Pacifying Neighborhoods, Consolidating Borders: The Presence of the Argentine National Gendarmerie and its Impact in the Southern Area of Buenos Aires (2011–2019)

Carolina Sánchez (New Brunswick): How Can Culture Contribute to Overcome Violence? A Comparative Reading from Contemporary Colombia and Mexico

Section 4: Visual Representations of Violence

Chair: Anja Bandau (Hannover) / Hinnerk Onken (Hannover)

Gabriela Zamorano (Zamora de Hidalgo): Elusive Faces: Public Visual Displays/Erasures of Criminal Subjects in Contemporary Michoacán

María Eugenia Ulfe (Lima): Staging Memory in New Devices and Repertoires in Postconflict Neoliberal Peru

Alicia C. Decker (State College): The Pornography of Pain: Making Sense of African Violence in Graphic Novels of War

Freddy Tsimba (Kinshasa): Conversation with the Artist

Comment: Gisela Cánepa Koch (San Miguel)

Roundtable on Gender and Violence

Chair: Birte Rodenberg (Berlin)

Chris Dolan (Kampala) / Henri Myrttinen (Berlin) / Montserrat Sagot Rodriguez (San José) / María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba (El Paso)

Moderation: Susanne Buckley-Zistel (Marburg)

Exhibition „Art of Countering Violent Extremism in Kenya“

Monika Hauser (Cologne): Opening

Halkano Abdi Wario (Njoro)/ Absalom K. Aswani (curator): Comments

Section 5: Religion as a Maker and Breaker of Violence: Scenarios and Dynamics of Religious Strife and Peacebuilding Strategies

Chair: Brigitte Reinwald (Hannover)

Britta Frede (Bayreuth): Who’s Islam? Religion, Social Injustice and Conflictual Arguments in Contemporary Mauritania

Halkano Abdi Wario (Njoro): Towards a Theory of Counter-Jihadism: Exploring Epistemologies of Knowledge of Religious Counter-Narratives in Africa

Obvious Katsaura (Johannesburg): Redeeming the Iniquitous City: Religion, Ritual and Mediations of Violence in Johannesburg

Comment: Abdoulaye Sounaye (Berlin)

Section 6: Short presentations: Remember Violence – Ignore Violence

Chair: Mathias Bös (Hannover)

Nompumelelo Zinhle Manzini (State College): An “Ignorance that Is Active”: If “#NotAllMen”, then which #menaretrash? Understanding Violence Against Women in South Africa through the Lens of Epistemic Injustice and the Epistemologies of Ignorance

Mercedes Figueroa (Berlin): Institutional and Family Memories in Dispute: The Negotiation of Images and Imaginaries about the “Victimizer” around the Internal Armed Conflict in Peru

Franziska Englert (Cologne): Transitional Justice, Telenovelas and Reconciliation in Colombia

Keynote II

Dereje Feyissa Dori (Addis Ababa): The Affordances and Limits of Ethnic Federalism in Dealing with Inter-group Violence in Africa: The Ethiopian Experience

Chair: Brigitte Reinwald

Section 7: Final panel: Dealing with Violence – Resources and perspectives for a transregional research agenda

Chair: Christine Hatzky (Hannover)

Anja Bandau (Hannover) / Wolfgang Gabbert (Hannover) / Hinnerk Onken (Hannover) / Brigitte Reinwald (Hannover)

Online Sessions

Section 8: Local Communites, Resource Exploitation and the State

Chair: Wolfgang Gabbert (Hannover) / Brigitte Reinwald (Hannover)

Elisa Cruz Rueda (Tuxtla Gutiérrez): Structural Reforms of the Energy Sector in Mexico: Indigenous Rights, Human Rights and the Project of the so-called Maya Train

Joseph Mujere (Maseru): Local Communities, Chinese Mining Companies, and the Dynamics of Artisanal and Small-Scale Chromite Mining in Mapanzure Communal Areas, Zimbabwe

Andrea Behrends (Bayreuth): Inequalities of the Past and the Promise of a Better Future Based on Petroleom Production in Chad

Philipp Naucke (Marburg): Conflict Transformation despite (Para-) State Violence: Peasent Peacebuilding in Latin America (Colombia/Guatemala)

Section 9: Short presentations

Chair: Mathias Bös

Esther Ikenye (Pretoria / Benin City): Rethinking Bias in Reproductive Health and Rights Protection for Women in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations in Nigeria: A Jurisprudential Analysis

Fungai Chirongoma (Cape Town): Interventions of Faith Based Organizations in Adressing Violence against Women in Cape Town, South Africa

Catherine Akurut (Port Elizabeth): Conflict-related Sexual Violence against Males: Recognition by and Responses of Humanitarian Organizations in Africa

Angela Navarrete Cruz (Hohenheim / Stuttgart): Agrarian Roots of the Colombian Armed Conflict and Peacebuildung Strategies in Rural Areas

[1] These panels and the audio recordings of the main event can be accessed on the homepage of the CEAGS: