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Power/Resistance: External Actors, Local Agency, and the Burundian Peacebuilding Project

Elise Féron, Keith Krause


Peacebuilding policies and practices represent strong attempts by external actors to exercise power in postconflict settings. Yet the extensive theoretical treatments of power in International Relations remain somewhat disconnected from empirical analyses of peacebuilding, and how external actors exercise power is under-conceptualised in the literature. Likewise, the literature on forms of resistance by local actors is seldom examined as an exercise of power in itself, and as part of a multidimensional relationship of power/resistance between external and local actors. This article thus theorises the different dimensions of power/resistance, with a detailed focus on an exemplary case – international efforts at peacebuilding in Burundi – that spans more than twenty years. It deploys a tripartite conception of both to analyse the ways in which different forms of power and resistance can be uncovered in peacebuilding practices, We demonstrate this via an analysis of postconflict peacebuilding in Burundi, and in particular the longer-term efforts of local actors to overtly and covertly bend and fuse peacebuilding practices to their own ends.

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