Institute for the Study of

Intercommunal Conflict


Current members of the institute are engaged in a wide variety of research projects including studies of aggression, cooperation, violence against women, police reform, ethnic conflict, human rights, weapons of mass destruction, genocide, international refugees and internally displaced people, and many other areas.

The institute is a welcome home for those engaged in interdisciplinary research in all areas related to intercommunal conflict. The institute's members seek external grants and other forms of funding to support the wide variety of topics encompassed in intercommunal conflict.

The Sunni Awakening in al Anbar Province, Iraq

Martha Cottam, Bruno Baltodano, Joe Huseby

Al Anbar Province was one of Iraq’s most violent provinces after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Yet by 2006 the Sunni tribal leadership had reached a decision to join forces with the American and Coalition Forces in an effort to rid the province of al Qaeda fighters. This study examines the evolution and causes of the Sunni Awakening. Research has included archival work and field interviews with American military personnel and Sunni tribal sheikhs from al Anbar Province. The research is supported by a contract with the Department of Defense.

Cooperation Among Insurgents: The Sandinistas in Nicaragua

Martha Cottam, Bruno Baltodano, Martin Garcia

This research project poses the following questions: Why do some armed groups coordinate and even cooperate with one another? What factors motivate them to engage in cooperation, what factors enable them to cooperate, and what factors keep coalitions together successfully? This is a study of insurgencies from the past, cooperation among the 3 tendencies of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and lack of cooperation among insurgents in the contra factions in Nicaragua.

Violence and Oppression Research Project

Martha Cottam, Faith Lutze, Joe Huseby

The focus of this research project is on the evolution of violent impulses in different contexts, the escalation and acceleration patterns as well as limiting patterns, and the eventual conclusion of violent behaviors. We are exploring the causes and impact of violence on people during its cycle, from initiation to escalation to conclusion and aftermath. In the process the research project examines a wide variety of types of conflict, including domestic interpersonal violence; community-level violence ranging from racial to ethnic conflict, gender-based violence, gangs, hate crimes, and riots; resource-based conflict; civil wars, genocide, and the lives of child soldiers, and violence perpetrated by criminal regimes; failed states, and states committed to rule through terror. Events such as these have cost millions of people their lives in the last 100 years, yet it is only in the past 2 decades that the common causes and patterns of these activities have come under scrutiny by academics. During the Cold War the avoidance of nuclear catastrophe was attributed to the rationality of deterrence, while wars that were offshoots of the Cold War were discounted as "proxy wars" whose victims hardly mattered. Violence in the home used to be considered a "private" concern. The distinction between the criminal and the political universes were considered absolute. But today scholars from a number of fields as well as clinicians are developing a different perspective. What we learn about human violence in one domain may well contribute to our understanding of it in many other domains.

The project also considers what we call "slow genocide." Although tremendous attention is given by those in the international community to the rise of violence that results in mass killings and genocide, little attention is then paid to the "ordinary violence" (i.e., domestic violence, rape, assault, and murder) that occurs before and after the genocide, and results in slow genocide. Slow genocide is the emotional and physical harm done to survivors of violence over time that leads to extreme hardship and premature death for many. The emotional and physical harm resulting from witnessing or participating in violence and the continuing experiences of living in unsafe and violent communities perpetuates a cycle of violence that often affects multiple generations.

Research on the International Policing Policy Community (IPPC)

Otwin Marenin

Police, and more generally security sector (SSR), reform has been promoted transnationally through different mechanisms: e.g. bilateral, regional and international aid and assistance programs, UN peacebuilding efforts, or international law enforcement academies. The basic goal of all such transnational reform programs is the creation of democratic policing systems in countries and regions which currently lack these. The standards against which the 'democraticness' of policing systems is measured and progress toward that goal evaluated have become enshrined in international policing and security regimes.

I am interested in 2 questions: who produces these programs and the conceptions of democratic policing against which they are being measured. They do not happen by themselves, nor are they natural and obvious solutions to transnational and domestic crime and security problems.

I will collect information on the individuals, and institutions and groups they are affiliated with, who have been instrumental in creating standards and programs, and plot their social networks established through personal and institutional connections. My impression, so far, is that a core group of individuals linked in dense social network have been responsible for producing most of the standards and specific reform programs. The core network is surrounded by a tangentially and less permanently associated group of others also involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating policing reforms. Both core and periphery groups can be seen as the beginning of a global civic society interest group in SSR and policing, which functions below and cuts across national and state levels.

Second, what have been the consequences, intended and unintended, of transnational policing assistance and reform programs on the organizational arrangements, management styles, occupational performance, and professional cultures of assisted policing systems. More specifically, to what degree have assistance programs helped policing and security systems become more efficient and effective, while remaining attuned to the protection of rights and due process, when dealing with social and individual conflicts ranging from crime to the maintenance of peace, security, and good order.

There exists a substantial literature on these questions, most of it not highly positive about the achievements of transnational policing programs. Specifically, though, I want to focus on the impacts of programs on occupational cultures, and whether programs are a one- or a two-way street. Three issues are of interest here: have assisted policing systems changed in their cultures; have assisting police institutions and cultures been changed by their exposure to other policing systems and practices and their reforms efforts outside their own countries; do we see the development and institutionalization of a global police culture?

Border Studies Projects

Cooperation in NAFTA: Security Issues

Martha Cottam, Otwin Marenin

This research project has focused on cooperation and problems therein in NAFTA regarding security issues, particularly in the war on drugs, but also related to other post-9/11 security concerns such as the flow of immigrants and trade conflicts. Cooperation between the national governments and local law enforcement communities is one issue of emphasis. Factors such as mutual perceptions, nationalism, bureaucratic cultures, and the unique requirements of practitioners' jobs have been studied as influences on cooperation.

You Are Not My Friend: Feeding Conflict in Times of Peace

Susan Dente Ross

Advocates and scholars of peace journalism have expounded on this journalistic paradigm in the context of perceived problems with media coverage of international conflict through critiques of what they call 'war journalism' practice (see, e.g., Galtung; Kempf; Lynch; Mandelzis; McGoldrick; Nohrstedt; Ottosen; Peleg; Ross; Shinar). This project expands peace journalism research by exploring the peacetime construction of conflict with putative allies and friends. This study explores the construction of U.S. neighbors in the texts of the New York Times, policy initiatives, and presidential speeches dealing with U.S. borders during the first 7 years of the George W. Bush administration. The text analysis examines and compares U.S. political and media constructions of both the Mexican and Canadian borders with the United States, paying particular attention to issues of trade/commerce, immigration, illegal drugs, and national security. This study seeks to identify and critique the discursive preparation during periods of bilateral cooperation and peace that strategically assists or impedes the build-up to military conflict between the United States and its neighbors or 'friends.' In so doing, the authors hope to provide new terrain for engagement of peace journalism practice that will reduce the international drive toward militarism and war.

Violence, Tragedy, and Toleration in Early Modern England

Will Hamlin

Much of my work in the past has dealt with representations of violence and transgression in English Renaissance tragedy, and I continue to study the ways in which specific forms of social dislocation and personal violation find expression in literary texts—particularly those of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. At the moment I am particularly interested in the English reception and appropriation of the French essayist Michel de Montaigne, whose essays testify repeatedly to his horror at all forms of cruelty, and who is generally regarded as an early and important voice in the movement toward religious toleration in Europe. I hope to explore in detail the many networks of influence through which Montaigne's ideas were conveyed to English readers, and by which various forms of religious intolerance were gradually dismantled.

Linkage with ICU–WSU Peace and Security Research Partnership

For several years, Washington State University has had a partnership with the International Christian University (ICU) in Japan. The collaboration of faculty and students has centered on the themes of peace, security, and kyosei. There is a clear overlap between this collaboration and the mission statement of ISIC. Many faculty are involved in both institutions. Consequently, we are pleased to post the following research project as the first collaborative ICU–ISIC research theme. 

SUBTHEME: War Memory and Global Peace

In the context of "Global Implementation of Peace Research and Education"
Noriko Kawamura
Director, ICU–WSU Peace and Security Research Partnership
Faculty Associate, ISIC

The war memory project will explore the meaning of the burden of the past and the role of "memory" from a multidisciplinary perspective in order to promote reconciliation and "positive" global peace and kyosei. "War memory" will be broadly interpreted to include memories of not only international wars but also various kinds of communal and domestic violence, and scholars from various disciplines will explore the questions of how we can transcend antagonism and hostile relations created by collective and individual memories of the past and how we can achieve reconciliation and lasting peace. This comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach will allow scholars from diverse disciplines—history, political science, media, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, gender studies, religious studies, etc.

ICU faculty members and students have already started war memory projects with universities in China and Korea. The WSU "peace" faculty members who are participating in the joint project with ICU have a lot to offer to this "memory" project. Some of them have already been studying war memory as means to build new pathways to peace. ICU and WSU are envisioning this project to be a multidisciplinary and extramural project and planning to include at least 3 other institutions (the Nanjing University in China, Munster University in Germany, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa). We are also planning to invite some prominent scholars of "memory" in the United States.

The proposed war memory project will consist of 2 components—1) faculty's joint research and 2) student involvement in peace education—and together these 2 will transform and strengthen the CLA's peace studies.

Religious Pluralism and Intercommunal Violence

Michael Myers

Religious exclusivism is widely perceived as one of the major sources of intercommunal violence. One proposed solution is to adopt a kind of strident secularism. But this solution will not provide instant relief in a religious world. Also, secularism can itself take intolerant, exclusivist forms. An alternative that provides both instant and long-term relief is to adopt a philosophy of pragmatic religious pluralism. Pragmatic religious pluralism is not a smorgasbord approach to religion or an incoherent relativism in response to particular religious claims. Rather, it is a practical approach toward the religious Other in terms of nonharming. This research looks at a number of forms of religious pluralism as practical aids to nonharming in their historical and cultural contexts. Part of the research has been funded by a grant from the Spalding Foundation.

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