By Majken Jul Sørensen & Jørgen Johansen
This article is a short version of a text which was first published with the title “Nonviolent Conflict Escalation” in Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 2016. DOI: 10.1002/crq.21173. In this longer article you can find references to all our sources.
”We have mapped all the conflicts in the world” a senior researcher at PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo) told one of the authors at a seminar a couple of weeks ago. If that was true, it would be pretty impressive.
Each of the seven billion people living on earth at the moment are likely to have a considerably number of conflicts every year with their partners, neighbours, friends and family members.
However, the large majority of these conflicts are dealt with in a peaceful and creative manner. Although they can feel burdensome in the heat of the moment, many of them are a way for people to grow as persons and learn more about themselves and each other.
But of course, it was not all these conflicts the senior researcher at the seminar had in mind. She was talking about the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset which includes violent conflicts involving at least one state. However, her statement is symptomatic for an attitude which seems to be widespread within mainstream peace and conflict studies: because they so often focus on violent and destructive conflicts, their language gets “contaminated”.
Thus there is a strong tendency to associate conflict with violence and something undesirable which should be avoided and de-escalated. Just as important, this perception of conflict also ignores all the large-scale societal conflicts fought along nonviolent lines.
In this text we examine some of the ways that nonviolent stakeholders have deliberately and persistently escalated conflicts, and show how such escalations have been fundamental for them to achieve their goals. These actors have created visibility for hardly recognised injustices and highlighted issues that have endured in the shadows of history.
This approach is the opposite of preventing conflicts; rather, it aims to escalate them in order to create change. It counters both the association of conflict with violence and contributes to a deeper understanding of nonviolent resistance. Read More »