Not ‘Just’ a Kid: Knowledge Politics and Youth Peacebuilding in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa

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Dixon, Alina
Peacebuilding , Youth , Youth peacebuilding , East Africa , Knowledge politics
Despite the fact that young people are critical actors in, and significantly impacted by conflict, often times their expertise and insight is overlooked and undervalued on the basis on their age. Yet such exclusion is significant given that the decisions made in the post-conflict environment have a direct impact upon the opportunities that young people will have and the environments in which they will grow up. In this dissertation I explore the knowledge politics of peacebuilding as it pertains to young people to uncover the role that young people have to offer to the broader study and practice of peacebuilding, and thus what is lost by way of their exclusion. Emphasizing the creative, everyday nuances of young people’s lived experiences, this project adds to calls to acknowledge the ways that peace is conceptualized in the narratives of youth that they themselves create and embrace. The methodological approach of this project is grounded in the situated knowledge of youth and attempts to challenge a normative understanding of peacebuilders that undervalues the role of young people. Specifically, I look to the more organic and creative mediums of narrative literature, social media, and music as spaces where youth peacebuilding knowledge is constructed. The purpose of this research is to explore 1) the different ways that knowledge about peacebuilding and young people is created and sustained, and 2) the usefulness of the emerging debates on the concepts of the ‘everyday’, ‘agency’, and ‘hybridity’ to adequately capture the contributions and challenges of youth peacebuilding activities. Ultimately, I conclude that an acknowledgement of youth peacebuilding knowledge as legitimate knowledge calls into question the broader structures of power that have sustained a normative, liberal approach to peacebuilding. Reconciling youth peacebuilding knowledge with a normative framework necessitates adopting a more fluid and iterative notion of ‘successful’ peacebuilding. While such a goal may be incompatible with the current static modus operandi of international peacebuilding, I stipulate that it is within the process of producing youth peacebuilding knowledge that the greatest insights can be gleaned.
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